TRACK AND FIELD: Ex-Pasco star wants vaulters

June 29, 2012 

EUGENE — Rick Baggett got his start pole vaulting in Pasco.

Now he is going to help other Tri-Cities youngsters in the sport.

The 1972 Pasco High graduate, who now runs the Willamette Striders Track Club in Oregon City, Ore., is working with Kennewick Parks and Recreation to bring a pole vault class to the Southridge Sports Complex this October.

“The kids will come in, get some solid training and some solid technique work and then go put it to use during the high school season,” Baggett said. “Then hopefully come back during the summer when the high school season is done and then continue competition.”

The program is scheduled to run Tuesdays and Thursdays in two groups, from 4-6 and then 6-8 p.m. October through January.

It is open for all ages, and for more information contact Brandon Lange at the Kennewick Parks and Rec department.

Baggett runs a similar program in North Seattle, working with ProVaultNW, a pole vault track club in Everett.

“Most of what we’re bringing in is a solid curriculum and teaching strategies,” Baggett said, “and development in the event.”

Baggett’s Striders track club has hundreds of athletes in it from fifth graders to a 77-year-old.

The club works with vaulters, jumpers, hurdlers and decathletes.

Baggett got his start as a pole vaulter in eighth grade at Stevens Middle School as a youngster, he then cleared a school record 15 feet, 9 3/4 inches at Pasco High in 1972, and went on to compete at Washington State. He qualified for an Olympic Trials, but didn’t compete because of injury.

On Sunday, he was in Eugene at the Olympic track and field trials watching one of his former students – Becky Holliday – take second place in the women’s pole vault, and earning an Olympic berth. The University of Oregon national champion cleared 14-11 to earn the berth.

It is the first Olympian he has coached.

“It was great. Really, really good,” Baggett said. “It’s a big deal.”

Holliday is just one of many lives that Baggett has touched throughout the years, helping students earn nearly $2 million in athletic scholarships by working with the Striders programs.

Baggett and his other coaches have also created videos that help high school coaches, and distributed them to every high school in the state of Oregon.

While his involvement with Washington schools has waned since his work in the 1980s in Kent, he is hoping to change that this fall.

“When you look back at the opportunities we’ve given the kids,” Baggett said, “they’ve been able to perform at a higher level than they would get at a standard high school.

“It is really rewarding.”

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