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Sky’s the Limit
April 18, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering sophomore pole vaulter Morgan Heil takes her turn warming up at the Mitchell Invitational track meet on April 8. Gering’s coach for pole vaulting local businessman Bill Bauer says the Bulldogs are the team to watch this year.

Bespectacled and wearing a black safety helmet, resembling a mountain climber more than a pole vaulter, Gering High School senior Ramone Villalobos recorded a personal best on Friday afternoon last week at the Mitchell High School Invitational. He cleared the bar at 10 feet, the first time in his four-year career of being with the Gering High School track team.

Bill Bauer, who is in his seventh year coaching vaulters at Gering, a part-time gig outside of being owner of InterTECH Corporation, said he believes Villalobos has the potential to clear 13 feet, and could go all the way to state, but getting there depends on improving his technique. “He needs to stop, look at the bar, and look back to the horizon as he raises himself up,” he said.

If anyone can help Villalobos rise to new heights, it’s Bauer, who coached his own daughter, Megan (Bauer), whose married name is Megan Stobel. Megan is now a stay-at-home mom rearing two children these days, though she does on occasion dust off her poles to head for the pit. In 2004, she was a Nebraska state champion, having vaulted 12 feet, 8 inches in the same year she was ranked one of the top 10 female vaulters in the nation.

“This year, we are the team to watch,” coach Bauer said. Among the corps of young Bulldog vaulters, not only is Villalobos, who was seeded seventh among competitors at Mitchell, making strides, senior Karl Case also performed well. He exceeded his seeding at 9 feet, going and extra six inches higher.

Aside from freshmen Deshaun Hernandez and Cole Bevins, with open minds and willingness to soak up all of Bauer’s expertise, the Gering girls’ vaulters consist of a trio of sophomores in Karina Clark (seeded at 6 feet, 6 inches), Brit Bernhardt, and Morgan Heil. The latter two were seeded at 6 feet.

Villalobos said he started out running distance in junior high, and it was a friend in seventh grade who talked him into trying out for pole vault. He described the first jump, having a surge of adrenaline, then falling and hitting hard. “It felt great,” he said. He recalled his best vault that year was a five foot, six inches at a junior high meet in Scottsbluff.

“My goal this year is to go to state,” Villalobos said. He agreed with Bauer that he needs to improve his technique. “In practice, I need to work on not looking at the bar, but instead looking back at the runway,” he said. “I start my approach to the pit by striding, then in the last 10 feet, it’s a sprint,” to gain enough momentum for the lift.

What onlookers see next is the how the bar bends, bowing in just the right measure to catapult the vaulter. Right now at practice, Villalobos is using a bungee cord at the 12-foot mark to gain confidence. He said it’s working.

Ideally, Bauer said, you want someone with speed and good upper body strength. Case uses half that equation to his advantage.
“Karl keeps using his speed,” the with the right amount of torque, “he’s ultimately successful with trying to invert. We push each other,” Villalobos said.

Bernhardt at 6 feet, and Clark at 5 feet, 6 inches, were the top female finishers for Gering.

Gering’s track team is scheduled to compete in the Alliance Invitational at the Scottsbluff High School track.


In our story “Sky’s the Limit” on Gering High School’s pole vault team in the April 15 edition sports section, the vaulter referred to as Brit Bernhardt is known as Brittney. Also, Meagan Stobel (correct spelling of her first name), was coached by Randy Johnson and not her father Bill Bauer. Meagan and Randy Johnson, the long and triple jump coach, taught Bill how to coach. Randy Johnson and current track Head Coach Randy Plummer both also imparted tips to Bill on how to work with high school athletes. “I learned that a coach spends more quality time with an athlete in a season than most people spend with them in a lifetime. A coach truly can make a significant life-long impact on an athlete,” Bill said.

The Gering Citizen regrets these errors and omissions.

Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering pole vault coach Bill Bauer chats with sophomore Karina Clark before one of her attempts. She fell just shy of contention with her best on the day being a 5 feet, 6 inch vault.

Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen This year’s Bulldog pole vaulters are represented by, first row from left, Karina Clark, Cole Bevins, Morgan Heil, Deshaun Hernandez, and Brit Bernhardt. Karl Case and Ramon Villalobos stand next to Coach Bill Bauer.
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