Looking back at his accomplished career as a high-school pole vaulter, perseverance might have played a bigger role in Justin Delgado’s success than his raw talent in the event.
The 2022 Wakefield High School graduate recently capped his prep career in the sport with a runner-up finish at the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 outdoor boys track and field state meet with a personal best jump, by one foot, of 13 feet. The first-place winning height was 13-6.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Delgado was extremely pleased with that second-place height, and with his improvement in the event throughout high-school.
Delgado will attend Ohio University to study photography, but will not compete collegiately. He may continue to jump on his own, however.
The fact he continued as a high-school pole vaulter at all when his family moved to Arlington from Texas for his sophomore year took determination and some help. Delgado had started pole vaulting in Texas, jumping just a bit over 9 feet as a high-school freshman. But when he enrolled at Wakefield, pole vaulting was not an event that was allowed by the Arlington school system.
“I remember thinking, well, I guess I will start being a sprinter,” Delgado said.
Not so fast.
Nate Hailey had taken over as Wakefield’s new director of student activities about the same time Delgado arrived at the school. So the former track coach checked into the situation. It turned out pole vaulting could be offered, but simply had not been for many years.
Wakefield then included pole vaulting as part of its indoor and outdoor track and field teams in time for the 2020-21 school year. So Delgado had a place to compete, becoming the school’s lone pole vaulter for a while.
“I can’t thank Mr. Hailey enough about getting pole vaulting started,” Delgado said. “It all fell together.”
He began competing in the event as a junior for Wakefield, jumping as high as 11 feet, and also participated in sprint and hurdle races. Delgado then suffered a setback that junior season when he injured his right arm in one of those races, missing the outdoor jumping season.
“That did not stop me,” Delgado said.
He returned healthy for his entire senior year, and continued improving and winning meets under coach Laura Beimfohr.
During the indoor season, Delgado won district and region championships with leaps of 11-6 in each meet. He jumped 12-6 at the state meet to place fifth. Moving outside for the spring campaign, Delgado cleared 11-3 to win the district and was third in the region at 12 feet.
Delgado said he practiced “really hard” for the state meet, clearing 14 feet in practice, and was nervous for the competition because he was seeded eighth.
After jumping 13 feet to clinch second in the state, he missed at 13-6, initially clearing the bar, then knocking it loose on his way down with his shin.
“Once I got into the top three at the state, I knew I could finish strong,” Delgado said. “It was a perfect ending.”
NOTE: Hailey explained that Wakefield had numerous pole vaulters on the indoor and outdoor teams this past school year. Hosana Connor was a freshman girl who leaped 9-3 and tied for 13th at the state meet. “Justin opened the door for a lot of kids here, ”Hailey said.