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Brock gives Knights a boost

The performance of River Ridge's Mike Brock, who scored points in five events at the conference meet, has been key to the Knights' success this season.

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Want to know how River Ridge shattered Ridgewood's grip on the Sunshine Athletic Conference boys title this season?

Meet exhibit A, Mike Brock.

The Royal Knight senior is the county's top pole vaulter, winning the SAC title with a leap of 12 feet over runner-up Ben Alford of Pasco, who leaped 11-6.

Brock's best leap of the season is a personal-best 13-6 at the Suncoast Relays in March, and if he continues on that trajectory, he could break Mike Wolfe's school-record leap of 15 feet, which would anoint Brock as a state contender.

"I've learned that if you attack the box with speed and you've got the heart for it, you can really do it," Brock said.

But at meets, the pole vault is just the end of Brock's day, not the beginning.

He also competes in the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump. If River Ridge coach Brian Colding needs an extra set of fresh, fast legs for the 4x400-meter relay team, Brock is there. He has also run the 200 and 400. That Brock is the county's top pole vaulter is not a surprise. That he is one of River Ridge's top scorers is.

"He's done a remarkable job this year, better than I expected, honestly," Colding said. "He's done four field events consistently and at least one running event per meet this season. That has been a pleasant surprise."

What's even more surprising is that Brock, also a standout sweeper and stopper on the River Ridge soccer team since transferring to the school two years ago, is now considering a college career in both sports.

An offer to play collegiate soccer, pending his SAT score, is already on the table from Central Florida. Brock might want to stay closer to home and play for South Florida. "I'd like to do (play both sports), but I'm not sure which (school) will let me," Brock said. "I'd prefer to do both, it would keep me in shape."

Brock has been vaulting for just two years, and decided to give it a try last season while watching teammates in practice.

"I felt like it came right to me," he said.

Brock says he owes his success this season to a critical breakthrough: learning how to bend the pole, which means he is no longer simply riding a straight pole over the bar.

"I just started bending the pole this year and started to get the feel for it," he said. "Within a week I gained a foot-and-a-half from bending it from my original stiff poling."

Said Colding: "He's strong, he's got a natural high plant for the vault. He's also jumping on a pole rated 20 pounds heavier than his body. That's darn good for high school. Not a lot of people can do that, and he's a high school kid bending the pole."

Brock's athleticism is also an asset. His 6-foot-3 frame gives him a height advantage over other vaulters in mid-air. Brock put all his talents to good use at the SAC meet, taking third in the triple jump, sixth in the high jump, seventh in the long jump and eighth in the 200. He's one of the cogs that keeps the Royal Knights moving.

"He's just a great kid as far as doing all the events and helping out the team," Colding said. "It's guys like him and Bryan Gibson, Richard Eagly and John Gilmore who won (the conference championship) for us. Eagly and Gilmore give us all they've got every meet, there's no unknown with them.

"But at conference, guys like Brock scored points in events I didn't expect, and finished higher than I expected."

Like every other vaulter, Brock is focused on two prizes.

"My main goal is to get to state," he said, "and I'd like to beat the school record. I really think I can do it if I practice hard enough."

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