Gahanna Lincoln High School junior Jake Blankenship spent some time pole vaulting at his grandfather's house when he was in eighth grade, but he didn't like the sport very much.

Gahanna Lincoln High School junior Jake Blankenship spent some time pole vaulting at his grandfather's house when he was in eighth grade, but he didn't like the sport very much.

He preferred playing football and baseball, along with snowboarding whenever possible.

But when Blankenship lost interest in baseball as a freshman, his mother, Becky Lottridge, promised that she would buy him a new snowboard if he would join the Lions track and field team.

Blankenship accepted the deal and surprised himself by quickly developing into one of the top pole vaulters in the state.

After clearing 14 feet to place seventh in the Division I regional meet at Pickerington North as a freshman to miss qualifying for state by three spots, Blankenship finished fourth (15-0) at regional last year and went on to place fourth (15-8) at state behind Olentangy Liberty senior Chris Uhle (state-record 16-9), Liberty senior Joey Uhle (16-0) and Dublin Scioto 2010 graduate Michael Shibko (15-8 on one fewer attempt).

"It's funny because I didn't really enjoy pole vaulting when I first tried it, and after I played football my freshman year, I didn't want to do anything else except football," Blankenship said. "But my mom bribed me to do the pole vault in high school and it's been the best thing that's ever happened to me, because I enjoy it more than any other sport I've ever done."

Blankenship began training with his grandfather, Bob Banhagel, as a freshman, and the two have traveled across the country together, competing in USA Track and Field meets.

Banhagel, 65, has been involved in the sport for 50 years and he won the 60-and-older men's pole vault competition in the 2010 USA Masters Indoor Championships in Boston.

Blankenship also has spent a lot of time training with his uncle, Rob Banhagel.

Rob Banhagel, who pole vaulted for Western Michigan University in 1986 and '87 and for Cuesta College in California in 1988 and '89, cleared 17-6 1/4 in a college meet to qualify for the Olympic trials.

"I had a lot of fun pole vaulting for my high school team, and the past few years I've been doing it nine or 10 months a year, going to meets and camps across the country, and I'm having a blast," Blankenship said. "I'm really lucky that I have my grandpa and uncle to teach me. My grandpa has a pole vault pit at his house and I've learned a lot from them. They both love the sport, and they inspire me to keep improving."

Blankenship won the pole vault in the Dick Dei Classic on April 9 at Wheeling (W.Va.) Park by clearing a program-record 16-2.

"Along with the Uhle brothers, Jake's one of the top three pole vaulters in the state, and he's one of the top high school pole vaulters in the nation," Gahanna boys coach Ed Rarey said. "He's doing as well as he can under the rainy and windy weather conditions that we've been having, and I don't see any reason why he won't become a 17-foot-plus pole vaulter in the future."

Chris Uhle, who still holds the state outdoor record, said Blankenship is a threat to win the state title the next two seasons.

Joey Uhle holds Ohio's indoor state record at 17-3.

"Jake gets great training from his family and he's got great potential for the future." Chris Uhle said. "My brother and I want to see Jake do really well in the future, and we're both working really hard to set the state record even higher so that it can stand for a while, because we know that Jake's going to keep getting better and he's got the potential to break it before he graduates."

Blankenship is being recruited by several college coaches and plans to compete in the sport at the next level. He also has set some lofty goals for his last two prep seasons.

"I would love to get first place at state this year, but that's going to be challenging with the Uhles there, so I'll be satisfied if I can finish third or higher," Blankenship said. "By my senior year, I want to win state and to become the seventh person to ever jump 18 feet while they're still in high school. I'm hoping to get some scholarship offers, and just like everyone else who does this sport at a high level, I would love to go to the Olympics. I never imagined I'd love doing the pole vault so much, and I'm really happy that my mom convinced me to give it a try."

Rob Banhagel believes Blankenship is on the right path to make those dreams come true.

"Jake has a lot of talent and he's head and shoulders above where I was at his age," Banhagel said. "His technique on top is second-to-none to any high school kid I've seen. His push-off at the top is nearly three feet above his grip, so we need to raise his grip to 15 feet. If he does that, he could jump 17 feet or 17-6 this season, and jump 18 feet by his senior year. Jake's definitely got a bright future in the sport."