Track & Field: Oswego teacher to compete in US indoor championships
By Paul Johnson For Sun-Times Media February 28, 2013 6:34PM
Updated: April 2, 2013 6:39AM
With the résumé Oswego elementary school teacher Jake Winder has in his pole vaulting career, it’s hard to imagine him ever wondering if he could do it again.
But the 2010 North Central College graduate, who won a state championship while at Plainfield South and three national titles — two indoor and one outdoor at North Central — was wondering just that after some hectic times away from the track after graduation.
He needed minor knee surgery, got married, bought a house and got a full-time job. All of a sudden, he wondered if he would still be able to compete at an elite level in pole vault.
“With all the changes, I wasn’t sure where I was going last year because I didn’t know how it was going to work with me having a full-time job,” Winder said. “I didn’t know how I would be able to structure my training, how I could compete at a level like this. I’m thanking God every single day because I didn’t know if it would be possible. I’ve gotten back to this, and I’m really happy and excited and very, very thankful for the opportunity to do it.”
Winder is referring to his appearance this weekend at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. His vault of 17-9 on Feb. 15 at the Cardinal Classic at North Central qualified him for the meet. He still trains at North Central with his father Tim’s Cardinal Vault Club.
Established in 2008 by Tim Winder, an assistant coach for the Cardinals’ perennial national powerhouse track and field program, the club provides an opportunity for elite pole vaulters to train and get into national competitions like the one Jake Winder is in this weekend.
“After college, there isn’t much support for track and field athletes,” said Jake Winder, who works as a physical education teacher at Southbury and Long Beach Elementary Schools in Oswego. “It’s hard to find a place to train. He put together this club so we could continue to pole vault after college if you’re at a high enough level. If you make 18-1½, you can qualify to be part of the club. I was able to do that, so he still coaches me and I train at North Central. It works out real well.”
The Winders are arguably the first family of pole vaulting in Illinois. It all started with Tim, winning a state championship at Woodlawn in 1979 before his successful coaching career. Then Jake came along with a state championship in 2005 along with second and sixth-place finishes in his career at Plainfield South. His brother Josh won a state title for Plainfield Central in 2008, won the 2012 national indoor championship at North Central and is currently ranked second in the nation for the Cardinals heading into the national indoor meet, which North Central hosts next weekend.
For good measure, his youngest brother Luke finished third at state for Plainfield Central last year as a sophomore.
Jake Winder is going to teach Friday before heading to Albuquerque with his wife Saturday morning. He is scheduled to vault at 1 p.m. in Albuquerque Sunday. The meet is televised on Saturday from 5-7p.m. on Universal Sports and from 3-5 p.m. on NBC Sports Network on Sunday.
“I’m so excited,” Winder said. “It’s been a long journey to get back to where I’ve been in the past.”