From the Glendale Union High School District to Glendale Community College, sophomore Alejandro Avila has become one of the top JUCO pole vaulters in the United States, competing with GCC.
Avila began vaulting in his sophomore year of high school. A multi-sport athlete at Greenway High, he was competing for the Demons track and field team, but could not find a particular event that piqued his interest. He was ultimately drawn to vaulting because it was “flashy.” He had some success pretty soon after starting.
After placing high in division meets his junior and sophomore years, while still playing other sports, he realized just how much he enjoyed vaulting. He dove fully into training in the summer between his junior and senior years at Greenway.
“I really knew then that I wanted to be a pole vaulter, and I really dedicated myself to it that summer,” Avila said.
The goal was always to eventually compete at the highest levels of college track and field, but he did not feel ready for such a stage after graduation. The proximity of GCC’s campus to home and familiarity with the coaching staff made the school an easy pick for two years.
He has earned All-American honors three times since enrolling.
An academically-focused student, Avila enjoys science classes such as physics. Just like the difficult college courses, he enjoys the challenge vaulting provides him every day.
Rich Franklin, a volunteer vaulting coach at Glendale, said Avila is one of the better athletes he has had a chance to work with, both mentally and physically. Among his biggest strengths is the ability to accept coaching.
“He is always listening, always wanting to get better,” Franklin said. “He’s the type of kid that, when you tell him something, some technique or a change, he can hear you and do it right away. That’s a really big deal.”
After his two years in Glendale are finished, Avila hopes his records and improvement will be enough to gain him offers at four-year universities, where he wishes to continue his academic and athletic career.
In talking with some of the country’s best vaulters at several meets, many of those standing on the medal stand even at various Division 1 championship meets were junior college products who needed the time at a smaller school to develop their techniques. Avila hopes his story can be like theirs.
Among his options is a potential preferred walk-on spot at ASU, and he said other schools have expressed mutual interest, too.
He said a solid showing at the 2019 NJCAA DI Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championships from May 16 through May 18 at New Mexico Junior College would improve his chances to obtain a scholarship and roster spot on a big-school track team.
“A lot of the bigger schools really look at this championship meet as a big deal. It’s really a place where you only have one chance, so if you do well it shows them you can perform when you have the opportunity in big spots,” Avila said.
Whatever other successes his vaulting future holds, though, Avila is focused on finishing with a personal record and gold medal at the national championship meet.
He has medaled in many other meets throughout his two years in Glendale, including taking third at the 2019 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this March, but a strong showing at the outdoor finals would be a neat bow on the end of a solid JUCO career.
“I’ve been on the medal stand before, and it’s great,” Avila said. “But at the end of this season, after all this work to be at the top of it, I think I’d be speechless.”