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Building on the legacy: Hobart's Johnston breaks school pole vault record by clearing 17 feet

La PORTE -- The youngest of three generations of great pole vaulters, Cody Johnston may have also established himself as the best Saturday.

The Hobart junior, the son of Jim Johnston, Jr., and grandson of the late Jim Johnston, cleared 17 feet at La Porte's Dick Deardurff Invitational, breaking a 37-year old school record (Jim Stack, 16-9).

"Family record!" uncle Robb yelled. "Best in the family. That's more important. Bragging rights!"

In a family where a grandfather, uncle and brother have won state titles and at a school where five vaulters have garnered six titles, there's plenty of prestige to go around.

"It's in the blood," Cody said. "Brother, dad, cousins, uncles. I love it. It's a little bit of pressure, but I've learned so much. I'm the youngest. Thankfully, I've learned so much from everybody. I know (grandpa)'s proud. He's sittin' up there. He's definitely still in the big chair. I'll never be in the big chair."

The meet was a personal showcase for Johnston, whose only potential competition, New Prairie's Daniel O'Laughlin, a 15-foot vaulter, was out, recovering from a hamstring strain. With warm temperatures and a hefty tailwind, the indoor state champion (16-7) and the state's outdoor leader 16-5) set his sights on Stack's 1985 mark.

"It was great weather, perfect," Johnston said.

After missing his first two runs on 16-9 1/2, Johnston earned his place on the record board with his third attempt, back flipping in the pit to add an exclamation point.

"I was not close at all," he said. "I just had so much more adrenaline. I just turned it up for some reason. I was feeling it. It was awesome."

By then, the rest of the meet was over and the meet announcer alerted everyone to what Johnston was doing. As Johnston decided to give 17 feet a go, the throng quickly grew.

"The wind blew me off a little bit, but the crowd, my adrenaline, oh my God, it was crazy," he said. "We were going to stop at 16-9 1/2, then I was like, nah, I've got to take one. Everybody came running over. It helped me a lot."

With people helping hold the bar in place on both sides of the stand, Johnston bested his minutes-old mark. Kids he didn't know from Rochester, Michigan City, La Porte and New Prairie, if not more, swarmed him for pictures. He even penned a few autographs.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm at a loss for words. I'm not complaining. I have Twitter. I don't really use it. I will start using it."

Johnston began vaulting in fifth, sixth grade. His dad said there was no pressure put on Cody to vault, but there was never a question.

"I didn't have a choice, but I definitely wanted to," he said.

That included doing grandpa's workouts, which included splitting and hauling logs in the sprawling backyard of their Hobart home, where he trains on their own vaulting facility.

"I chop wood," Cody said. "Our whole fence is a wood line."

Riley, the 2021 state champion at 16-6 -- Cody took third (16-0) is a freshman at Indiana, where he is taking a medical redshirt for a serious elbow injury sustained in a vaulting mishap. He was slowed by a hamstring pull as a senior or, Jim and Cody agree, he would have gone higher.

"He didn't really have a season until regionals," Jim said.

Indiana has stockpiled a ton of vaulting talent with half a dozen guys who have gone 16-6 or better. Will Cody join them?

"Nobody's really recruiting me," he said. "Hopefully, I get a couple calls."

Jim said there is some concern from colleges over Cody playing football, where the 150-pounder is a wide receiver/cornerback, as he did sustain collar bone injury last season, but the talent, pedigree and room for improvement is unquestioned, as long as dad can keep him on fresh poles.

"He's gone through 10 this season," he said.

After 17 feet, what's next?

"I have to start working on things I need to perfect, drills," Cody said.

Video on Twitter: @JP8185

The Johnston family celebrates Hobart junior Cody clearing 17 feet, breaking the school’s school 37-year old pole vault record Saturday at LaPorte's Kesling School. Cody is hoping to become the fourth Johnston and sixth Brickie to win a state title in the event.

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