ST. PETERSBURG — In the loosely knit conglomeration of events that is track and field, the pole vault has always stood out for the personalities it attracts.
There are eccentrics, daredevils, free spirits, and in some cases, downright wackos.
It takes some rare quality to hang upside down from a wildly bending pole and let it fling you a few feet in the air. Poles sometimes shatter, vaulters sometimes miss the pit.
On the family tree of athletes, vaulters swing from their own cracked branch.
Donovan Erbe attests to being part of this nutty species.
The Admiral Farragut senior is a fan of extreme sports and has participated in many of them.
"I like dirt biking and surfing and things like that," Erbe said. "You've got to be a little crazy to do this sport. You can get thrown back in pole vaulting. You never know what's going to happen."
There are no sure things in the world of pole vaulting. Even so, it's not bad to be Erbe right now.
After taking fourth at the Class A state meet last season, Erbe overcame an early season ankle injury and is consistently clearing 13 feet in his signature event, including a season-best of 13-6 at the George Steinbrenner meet at USF last month.
Now Erbe wants to set the bar higher. His goal is to break the school record of 14-8.
"I think it's something I can do," Erbe said of the record. "I've cleared 14-6 in practice before. I just have to put it all together in a meet."
Erbe's toughest competition will likely come from a local rival. Northside Christian's Grant Rideout has cleared 14 feet at least three times this season. The two are not in the same district, but they could meet in region and state competition.
"Those two should be battling it out, not for region titles, but for top-four finishes at state," Blue Jackets coach Phil Barnhill said.
Besides being a scoring machine in an event he has participated in since the seventh grade, Erbe provides leadership for Admiral Farragut.
The Blue Jackets have a few young stars and may be without veteran jumper Josh Burch, who has missed most of the season with a strained hamstring.
"We have a lot of young potential," Erbe said. "I will just try to use my experience to help the team out. I'm only going to be in the pole vault, and I want a shot at winning the state title."