Brownstown pole vaulter named boys track and field athlete of the year

While the accolades have their place in his legacy, Caleb Bollinger said his collection of ribbons won’t determine how he remembers his track and field career at Brownstown Central High School.

The pole vaulter feels that what matters most are the people who helped him along his four-year journey.

"I would say my best memories are doing what I love with my friends and having all of my family and community support me," Bollinger said.

Bollinger made a second straight state finals appearance in the pole vault for the Braves this spring while claiming numerous victories along the way.

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In his final season with the Braves, Bollinger went out with a bang.

The senior was the Mid-Southern Conference and Bedford North Lawrence Sectional champion in the pole vault before finishing runner-up at the Bloomington North Regional with a personal-best clear of 13 feet, 8 inches.

During the state finals at Indiana University, Bollinger placed 19th at 13-6.

"I think, pole vault-wise, he has left his mark," Braves head coach Derrick Koch said. "I’m proud of him for the work he put in. He spent a lot of time training, and it all paid off for him. He has shown that he has a good work ethic, and he will go places because of that."

For all of his accomplishments this season, The Tribune has named Bollinger the Jackson County Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Going into his last spring with the Braves, Bollinger had high expectations for himself. In 2018, he was the MSC runner-up. After beating out teammate Colton Ritz for the sectional title, Bollinger finished third at regional to secure his first state berth, where he finished 22nd.

After the conclusion of his senior football season, Bollinger concentrated all of his efforts on pole vaulting. 

He made numerous trips to Bloomington to work on his craft and changed up his form under new guidance.

Once the spring rolled around, Bollinger largely dominated the regular season before peaking in the postseason. However, while Bollinger was beating the competition, he struggled to get over 12 feet.

After winning the sectional title for a second straight time, Bollinger had his back against the wall at the Bloomington North Regional. He was on the verge of elimination at 12 feet before he took his game to another level to make it to 13-8.

"He worried me a little bit when he had three tries at 12 feet. All of a sudden, he got the right pole and started going," Koch said. "He made some big strides in the last three weeks. He was at 12 feet all season long, and then all of a sudden, he started kicking it in. He improved when he needed to."

Reflecting, Bollinger said he has come a long way since he first started pole vaulting with his brother, Jacob.

"The first time I pole vaulted, I didn’t know if I would live after it," Caleb said. "It was kind of scary, but once you watch your brother do it, you want to one-up that. One of the biggest people to help me is my dad (Todd Bollinger). He has been my coach and mentor for a while. My track coaches have always pushed me to be my best."

Bollinger is going to attend Eastern Kentucky University and plans on studying fire science. He said he’s considering trying out for the track and field team there.

While his future in pole vaulting is unclear, Bollinger hopes to come back and help future vaulters.

"If I have time, I will come back and help," he said. "It’s a really fun sport, and it would be fun to give back. There’s only one person that I know of, Luke Wood, that will be pole vaulting next year. To get at least two other guys to get possible points would be big. You never know if you’ll like it until you try it."

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2019 Jackson County Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year

Caleb Bollinger, Brownstown Central, senior, pole vault

Accomplishments: 19th at state finals, regional runner-up, Mid-Southern Conference and sectional champion, 13-8 season-best, regional qualifier in 4×100 relay

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Joining Caleb Bollinger on the 2019 All-Jackson County Boys Track and Field Team:

Derek Thompson, Brownstown Central, junior

Accomplishments: Sectional champion (200), regional qualifier (200, high jump, 4×100 relay), All-MSC honorable mention (200), BC most valuable

Robbie Branaman, Brownstown Central, senior

Accomplishments: Regional qualifier (4×100), BC mental attitude award

Braeden Walker, Brownstown Central, junior

Accomplishment: Regional qualifier (4×100 relay)

Brandon Wilson, Brownstown Central, junior

Accomplishment: Regional qualifier (4×100 relay)

Josh Pennington, Seymour, sophomore

Accomplishments: 23rd at state finals (110 hurdles), regional runner-up (110 hurdles), SHS outstanding track and field athlete

Haden Mettert, Seymour, senior

Accomplishments: Sectional champion (shot put), regional qualifier (shot put), New Albany Relays champion (shot put), SHS outstanding field events athlete

Caleb Madden, Seymour, senior

Accomplishments: Regional qualifier (discus), New Albany Relays champion (shot put), SHS outstanding field events athlete

Cayton Bailiff, Seymour, junior

Accomplishment: Regional qualifier (100)

Charlie Caudill, Seymour, junior

Accomplishment: Regional qualifier (high jump) 

Jakub Marek, Seymour, junior

Accomplishment: Regional qualifier (pole vault)

A.J. Goecker, Trinity Lutheran, senior

Accomplishments: Regional qualifier (3,200), set 1,600 (4:34), 3,200 (9:40.24) and high jump (5-10) records at TLHS, TLHS most valuable

Lane Wienhorst, Crothersville, senior

Accomplishments: Southern Athletic Conference runner-up (400), CHS most valuable, principal award, coaches award