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SOARING HIGHER: Webb City’s Smith ascending to new heights in pole vault

Jason Peake


Webb City High School has never produced a state champion in the pole vault.

Grayson Smith hopes to change that. 

“I want to be the first one,” he said. 

A junior at Webb City, Smith has continued to soar higher and higher in his signature event, the pole vault. 

And if you ask him, Smith will tell you he has grand plans for this spring. 

Webb City’s Grayson Smith is one of the top pole vaulters in the state of Missouri. Photos by Shawn Fowler.

“My goal is to get 17 feet and become the state champion,” said Smith, last year’s Class 4 runner-up. “And I want to set the school record so high no one can touch it.” 

After missing out on a freshman season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Smith put together a stellar sophomore campaign.

Smith made steady progress throughout the 2021 campaign.

At the season-opening Carthage Invitational, Smith cleared 11-11.75 feet to take third place. Smith cleared 13-11.25 at the district meet before recording a vault of 13-8.5 at the sectional, which was good for fourth place and a state berth. 

Smith saved his best for last, as he cleared 14-10 at the state meet to earn the silver medal. 

“Last year, I was just a sophomore, and no one was expecting me to do anything,” Smith said. “It was a lot of focus in practice and watching a lot of YouTube videos. Last season was really fun, but I think this season is going to be even better.”  

During the winter indoor season, Smith cleared a personal-best 15-6 at Missouri Southern’s high school invite. 

Now a returning state medalist and unlikely to take anyone by surprise, Smith has gotten off to a great start to the spring ’22 season.

Smith got over the bar at 15-0.25 at the Carthage Invitational and then set the meet record at the PSU/Gorilla Relays on April 8 by clearing 15 feet even.

Webb City’s Grayson Smith clears the bar during the Carthage Invitational. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

“I’ve been really impressed with Grayson and his desire to get better with every meet,” Webb City coach Dustin Miller said. “Even though he’s an elite vaulter for the area, he has the desire to compete and get better. And he’s been willing to do other events, the 4×400 and the long jump, to help out the team.”  

According to, Smith is currently the second-ranked pole vaulter in the state of Missouri behind Hickman’s Charlie Garino, who has cleared 16-4.75. Hickman is a Class 5 school, so the two won’t go head-to-head at state. 

Smith did not compete at Thursday’s Joplin Invitational, as he’s nursing an ankle injury that occurred during a recent 4×400 relay. He’ll be out of action for a few weeks, but the temporary setback shouldn’t impact his lofty goals for the spring.

“He’ll be back for districts,” Miller said. “He’s got a positive mindset and he enjoys helping his teammates. He’s an all-around team guy and I’m really proud of him.” 

Smith has come a long way since first giving the pole vault a try at the end of his eighth grade year. At first, like many beginners, he had mixed results.

“I was pretty average,” Smith said with a smile. 

Smith credits former coach, Josh Baker, for helping him improve at his signature event.

“He really got me going,” Smith said. 

Of course, the pole vault is an event that’s not exactly easy to master. It’s an event that takes speed, strength, agility, mental toughness and even a bit of bravery. 

Mastering the technique of sprinting down the runway, planting the pole and then launching into the air isn’t for everyone.

Like many standout vaulters, Smith has a background in gymnastics. 

“His gymnastics background helps for sure,”  Miller said. “He has good body awareness. He’s got good speed, he’s a good athlete and he can jump well. He has a good awareness in the air and is able to make adjustments. That has paid huge dividends for him.” 

As the 2022 season progresses, and once he returns to action, Smith hopes to continue to soar higher and higher, with the ultimate goal of peaking at the state track meet.

“He has a shot to improve his school record and become one of the top kids in the state, if not the nation this year,” Coach Miller said. “It will depend on how healthy he can get. But I’m excited for his opportunity this year.”

Finishing on top of the awards podium is Smith’s ultimate goal. 

And if he does that, Smith will not only earn a gold medal, but also make Webb City history as the program’s first state champion pole vaulter. 

“When I get healthy, my intensity in practice is going to increase a lot,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to getting healthy…and beating records.” 


Pictured is Webb City’s Grayson Smith. All photos by Shawn Fowler/SoMo Sports.



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