Zach McWhorter finishes in second place at 2021 nationals (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

BYU pole vault star Zach McWhorter sets bar high for nationals, future humanitarian efforts

Sophomore pole vaulter Zach McWhorter has inserted his name as one to remember, not only in BYU athletics, but also in the nationwide track and field community. But in spite of that, he knows there’s still a lot left on the table.

The third-year BYU athlete is coming up on NCAA Track and Field Championships, an event that resulted in a national runner-up finish last season. This year, his goals are clear.

“I want to win nationals and I want to take home the trophy and redeem myself,” McWhorter said. “However, I don’t want to focus on the outcome as much, I know that if I execute it will happen.”

McWhorter has been vaulting since his high school days in Arkansas, and in three seasons at BYU he has practiced what he preaches: execution. He has shown consistent displays of incredible athleticism and earned numerous honors and achievements to go with it.

He began his collegiate pole vaulting career in 2020 and was nothing short of impressive from the start, immediately landing himself a spot at No. 2 in program history.

At the conclusion of that initial season, the freshman had the seventh-best pole vault mark in the nation, claimed third place at the MPSF Championship and finished just outside the top 10 at the USA Track and Field Championships, not to mention his recognition as an All-American.

That sounds like it could satisfy a complete collegiate career, but it was only the beginning.

Fast forward to today, where McWhorter has rewritten the record books and inked his name at number one in BYU history for both indoor and outdoor marks, breaking his own original record twice. Outside of the university, you’ll find his name on the NCAA Division I list sitting at number five all-time.

Zach McWhorter clears 5.82m, the top pole vault mark in BYU history.

While many would equate McWhorter’s success to his achievements, records and honors, his definition of success rests on a different set of conditions.

“Success for me would be measured in a way that, when I look back on my life, am I going to know deep down that I did my best and gave it everything that I had,” McWhorter said.

McWhorter knows he could continue to pole vault beyond college given his level of talent, but he also feels the desire to focus his skills on helping those less fortunate than him. He saw the effects of poverty while serving his mission in Indonesia and has a strong desire to provide aid to poverty-stricken areas around the world.

“He’s always wanted to get into humanitarian work, and I’ve always told him pole vaulting isn’t the end all be all of existence, but it certainly can be a means to an end,” Rick McWhorter, Zach’s father and pole vaulting coach, said. “I think pole vaulting is going to help him meet people from around the world that’ll open up opportunities for him to serve in ways he can’t even imagine right now.”

McWhorter’s eyes are currently set on his upcoming competitions that can potentially add to his list of achievements, but his intentions are dual in that he hopes to succeed for both himself and those he cares deeply for.

Between pole vaulting and helping others, it is apparent that McWhorter has big ambitions and continually sets the bar high for himself. The good news for him is that he has a proven record of clearing such great heights.

The NCAA Track and Field Championships are March 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama.

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