Mount Shasta pole vaulter earns national championship berth at SOU
After COVID-19 ended his season last year, Garrett Bryan was determined to make this year a special one as a pole vaulter at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.
The Mount Shasta High School standout, who went to College of The Siskiyous for two years and competed in the pole vault, qualified for the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships for SOU. The event will take place May 26-28 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Bryan said is currently ranked 7th in the nation for NAIA pole vaulters. He qualified for the National Championships at Oregon State's High Performance Meet on April 30.
Bryan impressively cleared 16 feet and a half inch for second place in the competition and the sixth-best mark in the NAIA this season. He’s just the fourth individual in SOU school history to break 16 feet, and the mark was nearly 10 inches better than his previous best this season.
Bryan said though came close, he never went to the final championship meet in high school or community college. To do so now, right before graduation in June, is special.
“It was liberating when I qualified,” he said. “ I have put in so much time and effort for this. It was such a rewarding experience.”
On Saturday, Bryan placed second to teammate Adam O'Brien, who set a PR mark at the Cascade Conference Championships at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. At that event, Bryan finished with a vault of 15-9, while his teammate had a vault of 16 feet, three-quarter inches.
Another former Siskiyou County standout, Yreka High School graduate Isaac Fernandez, also did well at the conference championships for SOU. He placed fifth for the Raiders in the Steeplechase with a time of 15:20.57 and was sixth in the 1,500 with a time of 4:04.81.
Bryan’s goal at nationals is to try to hit a PR mark, do his best and see what happens. In practice the next few weeks, Bryan said he will be working closely with his coaches to refine his technique and keep pushing himself to vault as high as he can.
Bryan said he’s had a positive experience at SOU and is happy to be at a competitive program that has won national titles, with a great staff and fellow athletes. He added that O’Brien has been a big help – push and support each other.
“I was happy for him,” Bryan said of O’Brien’s success over the weekend. “I’ve made him better, and he’s made me better.”
Steve Pyles, who coached Bryan at COS, said he’s proud of what Bryan has accomplished.
A longtime track and field coach who specializes in the pole vault, he helped Bryan when he was a Bear although Pyles coached for Yreka.
“He works so hard. It's well deserved,” he said. “Garrett is always fine-tuning and keeps at it. He is always so focused on what he is doing. He is a person that gets things done.”
Pyles said Bryan has a wonderful natural ability for pole vault but also puts in the time and effort to improve. He believes Bryan is peaking at the right time.
If it was not for COVID-19 and crowds not being allowed at the championship, Pyles said he would have made the trip to cheer Bryan on.
Pyles said he wouldn’t be surprised if Bryan became a pole vaulting coach in the near future. Every summer, COS hosts a pole vault camp with those interested in the sport from high school and college students to those who want to test their mettle, and Bryan usually helps.
Bryan said a positive of going to school at Southern Oregon is he is only around an hour and 15 minutes away from home. He said he’s proud to come from a place like Mount Shasta, which is so full of natural beauty and people who have supported him over the years.
Bryan has had a successful college experience in the classroom as well.
He was named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete and a member of the Academic All-Cascade Conference team. He will graduate in June from SOU with a degree in psychology. After graduation, Bryan said he would like to become an entrepreneur.