Bradford An 18-Footer

For Zachery Bradford (Bloomington, Illinois), joining the 18-foot club—making him only the third prep ever to do so undercover—remains shocking.

“I still can’t believe it,” the talented senior says. (Continues below)



Crucial was the back-and-forth battle between him and KC Lightfoot (Lees Summit, Missouri).

“That competition couldn’t have gone any better,” he says. “Pushing each other, going higher and higher and higher.”

Lightfoot topped out at 17-9 and Bradford, faced with needing to make a third-attempt PR to win, moved back his step, clutched his 16-1 pole a little higher, and charged down the runway.

Of his clearance at 18-½, he says, “Making it, I didn’t think it was going to stay on. Looking to the right, it was off the pegs.”

Bradford has come a long way since he first showed up at coach Mike Cockerham’s non-profit Flying Dragons vault club as a fifth-grader. That year he cleared 5-6; he’s improved every year since, though he won’t likely again see another 5-foot improvement like he did in year 2.

Last year, he made 17-4 and also placed 2nd at NBN outdoors.

He says, “I still have room for improvement. I’m ready for more meets.”

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