Always reaching higher

Senior pole vaulter leaps over brothers’ records to advance to region this weekend


Jackson Newell

Senior Jonah Ulbricht vaulted higher in the school’s record book, surpassing his brothers’ marks, at the District 27/28 6A area meet April 21.

Margaret Edmonson, Adviser

Ever since senior Jonah Ulbricht started pole vaulting, his goal remained the same: beat his brother Jacob’s record at each level. 

“I always strived to beat his record in seventh grade, in eighth grade, and each year,” he said.

It’s a goal he accomplished this year after vaulting 15 feet 9 inches at the area track meet April 21, a fete that placed him third in the school’s record book. Jacob, who jumped 15 feet 6 inches in 2012, moved to fourth place.

And that’s OK with Jacob.

“He works hard, he’s a good teammate and a fun athlete to both coach and watch,” Jacob said. “And with him being three inches taller than me, I would have been disappointed if he didn’t pass my high school record.”

But Jacob has not let go of the 300 meter hurdles. Jonah clocked in at 39.86, the fifth fastest time in the school record books.

“We do still compare year to year bests, and whose form was better,” Jacob said, “but I’m mostly upset he beat my 300 hurdle record that same week!”

Jackson Newell
Senior Jonah Ulbricht competes in the 300 meters, another event in which he advanced to region this weekend.

Mom Monica said they knew it was inevitable

“From the time Jonah started vaulting in middle school, his older brother Jacob would comment that Jonah was going to beat his records in high school and in college at UIW,” she said. 

Jonah followed in his brother’s footsteps and signed his letter of intent to compete for the University of Incarnate Word track team.

“Jacob holds both the indoor and outdoor record at University of Incarnate Word,” Monica said, “and we are all expecting Jonah to be able to set new records for UIW.”

Jacob went on to teach and coach at Smithson Valley Middle School, but Jonah plans to study mechanical engineering and go into the automotive industry.

Not that Jacob and Jonah are the the only pole vaulters in the family. Brother Josh (2013) sits at 18th place in the school record books, and all three boys were coached by their dad Doug, another pole vaulter. 

“I tried to walk on at Texas State, but that did not work out too well,” Doug said. “My personal best jump was 14 feet 3 inches. That got me to the regional track meet my junior and senior year.”

Doug coached all three of his sons, which gave him opportunities to spend time and bond with each. He also got to know each of them better.

“Jacob was driven,” Doug said. “It was whatever he could do to jump higher. He always wanted to know what was wrong with each jump so he could fix it. He also helped me coach the other vaulters while we jumped at practice or at a meet.

Josh was just happy to be there, Doug said.

“He was always fun to be around,” he said, “If it went well, great. If he didn’t great. Let’s just have fun.”

Jonah only had one goal.

“Beat Jacob at everything track,” their dad said. “He out jumped him in pole vault. He ran faster than Jacob in the hurdles. He ran faster than Jacob in the 400. ”

Jonah called having his dad as a coach a “blessing.” At practice, his dad treats him the same as everyone else. 

“But we can talk about pole vault stuff at home,” Jonah said.

Jackson Newell
Coach Doug Ulbricht keeps watch over his athletes’ performance at Ranger Relays in March.

Doug records his athletes’ vaults so they can talk about what to change at every step, and Monica said Doug’s lessons went beyond the vaulting pit.

“All three of my boys have learned many valuable lessons from their father,” she said. “He inspires them to find the success within themselves. To always pay attention to the ‘little’ things that will make you successful.”

Soon those regular practices at Ranger Stadium will be over.

“It has been a blast, and I wished that Monica and I would had had a couple more children so I could continue to coach some Ulbricht boys,” Doug said.  “It has also been great watching their mom get excited when they do something good. There have been plenty of times when she was harder on them than I was.”

Jonah has two more shots to break the school record held by Olympian Logan Cunningham at 16 feet 8 inches (2009), but his bigger concern right now is reaching state.

“Obviously, I want to win state, but the reality is it will be tough,” he said. “It can happen, but it’s something that will be hard to do.”

No doubt the family will be watching region and state, should Jonah advance.

“I have a half day tomorrow to leave about noon and watch him jump at 2:30,” Jacob said. “Then when he makes it to state I’ll be taking that day off too. Either one will be his last time to wear the SV blue, and I remember how hard that feeling my senior year at state was, and I will be there to comfort, support, and encourage him in the best possible way. I love him!”

Now that Jonah has accomplished his family goals, there’s just one thing left to do.

“The only goal he has not gotten,” Doug said, “is make it to state and finish better than Jacob.”

This story was updated at 6:32 a.m,. on April 29, 2022.