Corey Huffman knows he can get higher.
The 17-year-old, Lo-Ellen Park pole-vault athlete wants to clear four metres. A lofty goal indeed considering the SDSSAA city track and field championship record for senior boys’ pole vault is 3.63-m, set by Lo-Ellen graduate, and the person who introduced Huffman to the sport, John Kosar.
But that's Huffman. And he's already close to his goal.
“I have a goal in my mind to be the best every time I compete,” Huffman said. “This season, I want to go over four metres for sure. I obtained 3.90-metres at the York University meet in April.
“It was my first time vaulting this year, so it is looking promising. I have always had this determination in me to do better.”
Huffman was a provincial-level gymnast up until Grade 9, when he was also competing in high jump. Knee and ankle injuries forced him to stop doing both.
But the active Huffman needed something to do, something to test his will. He found it in pole vaulting. It only took one run, once up and over the bar, for him to know pole vault was going to be that something.
“It was instant for me,” he said. “It clicked with me right away.”
In 2013, Huffman battled shin splints and placed third at both the SDSSAA track and field championship and the NOSSA championship as a first-year senior. He finished the high school season by placing 20th at OFSAA.
His personal best, at the time, was 3.40-m. At a Royal Canadian Legion provincial meet later in the year, Huffman vaulted 3.70-m, smashing his previous best.
But Huffman plans on making 2014 one to remember. He wants to go higher.
“I do put quite a bit of pressure on myself to get higher than my personal best, but recently I have learned that getting higher and higher every time isn’t always everything,” the Grade 12 student said.
“I competed in Sturgeon Falls and vaulted 3.80-m, which is 10cm below my personal best, but I was struggling with the huge wind gusts and came to the realization that I might actually need a stiffer pole — I learned a lot that day.”
As an athlete, Huffman has something not a lot of other competitors do, said Lo-Ellen track coach Colin Ward.
“His best vaults happen when he is under pressure,” Ward said. “When he is challenged, Corey rises to the occasion. Not everyone can do that. A lot of athletes crumble under pressure. His best vaults are at competitions, not in practice.”
Ward sees Huffman as an athlete on the cusp of great things.
“Corey is smart and calculated and stubborn,” Ward said. “When he knows he is capable of something, he goes for it. He isn’t afraid to try.
“He has already hit 3.90-metres (and) ... is on track to go over four.”
Reaching four metres is the main item on Huffman's 2014 to-do list — and he has no doubt he can do it.
“Reaching the No. 1 position in Northern Ontario isn’t as impossible as it seemed a long time ago.”
If you're looking for Huffman, it's best to look up.