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Whitehall pole vaulter reaches new heights with backing of record-holder’s dad

David Conrad clears 15-7 to break Zach Burrington’s record in West Michigan invite as Burrington’s father looks on.

Whitehall junior David Conrad, left, poses for a photo with Len Burrington at the 43rd West Michigan Invitational Track Meet Wednesday, May 25, 2022, at Reeths-Puffer’s Rocket Stadium in Muskegon, Mich. Conrad broke the meet pole vault record previously held by Burrington’s son, Zach. (Courtesy of Billie Conrad)

MUSKEGON – Eighteen years ago, Oakridge’s Zach Burrington cleared 15 feet, 6 ½ inches in pole vault to establish a new record in the West Michigan Invitational Track Meet.

David Conrad had not been born yet.

Wednesday night at Reeths-Puffer, in perhaps the most ideal conditions of a challenging spring season, Conrad made history in the 43rd edition of the all-star meet. The Whitehall junior cleared 15-7 to break Burrington’s record, which had stood since 2004.

Ironically, one of Conrad’s biggest supporters was Len Burrington, Zach’s father, who was working the pole vault event and often does so in many of the large meets in the Muskegon area.

“That guy’s awesome. I love that guy. He’s always so helpful at meets and he’s always so encouraging and I’m glad I was able to beat that record. It was nice,” Conrad said about Burrington, with whom he posed for a photo after breaking the meet record as well as his own Whitehall school record.

They both received hugs from Conrad’s mother, Billie, who raced over to the mat as her son raised his arms in triumph.

Conrad attempted 15-10 three times after securing the record, but he was unable to clear that mark.

Zach Burrington holds the all-time Muskegon-area record in pole vault at 16-4, set in the 2004 West Michigan Conference meet.

Conrad’s previous outdoor best was 15 feet at the beginning of this season. The national-level competitor has cleared 15-6 during an indoor event.

In another bit of irony, Conrad contemplated not even competing Wednesday.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“Actually, I almost didn’t come to this meet because earlier today I was looking at the weather, it was supposed to be downpouring all day,” Conrad said. “I almost just didn’t even come and I decided I might as well come and see if it’d work out. The rain went away – no lightning, no nothing – and it was perfect.”

Conrad believes he can still clear 16 feet this season.

He has two meets remaining for Whitehall High School this spring: Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Division 2 state finals Saturday at Fowlerville and Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 state finals June 4 at Forest Hills Eastern.

Conrad picked up pole vaulting in sixth grade when he saw others doing it. He thought it looked “really cool.” It took him some time for him to learn the event, but through a lot of hard work and some natural ability, things began to click for him.

At most meets, Conrad has to wait an hour or more before the bar even reaches the height he wants to begin vaulting.

“One of the things I really like about pole vault is everyone’s so encouraging of each other. We’re all competing against each other, but it’s like we’re all a team and, honestly, it’s really awesome,” Conrad said. “Some of my best friends I’ve met from pole vaulting and it’s awesome. I love it.”

CLICK HERE for complete results from the 43rd West Michigan Invitational Track Meet.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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