Bushland’s Eric Grassel wins Class 3A pole vault gold at UIL Athletics meet in Austin


AUSTIN — Eric Grassel was nervous.

The Bushland senior pole vaulter and the event’s No. Myers. Stadium.

Vanderbilt Industrial junior Tanner Woodring had just cleared the bar at that height and was poised to become the state Class 3A pole vault champion if Grassel couldn’t step in.

The Texas Tech clerk then took a deep breath, reunited with his coach, and remembered that his only competition was himself.

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“Personally, I don’t compete with anybody else,” Grassel said. “If there’s an 18-foot outfielder and he beats me, then that’s fine. I’m competing with myself trying to get my own PR. It doesn’t matter what anybody else clears . I’m always just trying to achieve my own personal goal.”

Grassel conquered those nerves in front of a packed crowd and completed his athletic evolution as a state champion.

Did Bushland coach Scott Sims deliver a special message ahead of that final jump?

“I let him do what he does,” Sims said. “He has so much experience and he knows how to make good adjustments. I just tried to calm him down.”

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Grassel won the gold with a 16-foot jump after Woodring scratched three times. He then jumped 16ft 6in before attempting a personal best 17ft.

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It was the senior’s first trip to the state after COVID canceled the 2020 meet and a bad case of mononucleosis kept Grassel from qualifying last spring.

No more wondering as the Grassel returns to Bushland with a gold medal – the first for the Texas Panhandle on the biggest stage in the state.

“I worked all summer and worked really hard for this,” Grassel said. “I’m just glad I finally got it because I worked on it for four years, both in the summer and during school.”

Grassel entered the competition at 15 feet with two other pole vaulters remaining. He stepped in and crossed that mark before three attempts at 15ft 9in.

He eclipsed his winning height of 16ft on the first attempt before doing the same at 16ft 6in.

His desire to win, against himself, was on display after he was unable to complete his 17-foot jump. Grassel cried after his second miss and decided to soak up the experience with a long rest on the mat after his final jump of the season.

“Even if he had explained that, he would have been mad,” Sims joked. “He’s a competitor and that will continue in college.”