OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - A 15-year-old freshman pole vaulter from Kansas is getting a kick out of his celebrity status thanks to his stunning 360-degree spin at a meet.
Connor Bell, one of seven pole vaulters from Shawnee Mission North, said he's vaulted as high as 10-feet, 6-inches. Last Wednesday's vault of 9 feet at the Sunflower League Junior Varsity Regionals in Olathe wasn't his best. A wrong step caused him to plateau on the pole.
But quick thinking and muscle strength allowed him to make a crazy 360 spin. Video clips from Bell's family show him spinning completely around while hanging onto that pole in midair.
"I was thinking, 'I'm high up. I need to get down,'" Bell laughed. "I was just kind of stuck there. I held on and spun myself around. I realized I was at the top, and I jumped off and threw it back."
When Bell came down, his grandpa, Eric Smith, had his cell phone recording.
School leaders told WDAF clips from that spur-of-the-moment spin has been requested by Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report.
"Seeing how it's exploded, it's definitely something else. Not what I expected at all," Bell told WDAF.
Indians track coaches, including Head Coach Aaron Davidson, said it took more than athleticism.
Davidson said the team's vaulters are told never to let go of the pole or their self-confidence. Bell and Davidson said they get that from North's Bernadette Wagner, who's respected as a pole vault guru with 40 years' experience.
"I've seen some crazy stuff in the pole vault," Davidson said, "but nothing like that."
"The one thing I tell athletes is to never talk yourself out of a good day or a good performance. I think that can translate to the pole vault. Never give up on the bar. I think that's what it was."
Bell said being part of Shawnee Mission North's community means the world to him. He's already been elected sophomore class president for the coming year.
Bell said he hopes one day to compete at the college level. He said he may have a thousand more attempts and the spin may never happen again.