CABOT, Ark. — Parker Benefield might be a state champion pole vaulter, but the sports wasn't love at first sight for the Cabot senior.

"The first time I went to a pole vault practice, someone actually broke a pole, so it was pretty scary when I first saw it," he said. "It took a little getting used to."

He started pole vaulting just before junior high, but things really took off during his 10th grade year.

"I wasn't very good until sophomore year," Benefield said. "I jumped from 10 feet to 13 feet, so once I made that jump it really made a big difference how much I cared about it."

Benefield holds both state record in both indoor and outdoor pole vault, but the accolades aren't what he loves the most.

"The pole vault community is very supportive," he said. "Obviously, you're competing against other people, but I've never rooted for someone to miss a bar. You know, everyone really wants everyone to do their best. That's what I love about it."

Benefield compete collegiality, and committed to Central Arkansas on Thursday. He'll study biology while at UCA, with hopes to become a high school teacher and coach.

"Everyone in my family said that that I'd be good at it," he said about what inspired him to pursue a career in education. "I just figured it would be kind of fun and something I'd like to do for the rest of my life."

He learned something important when his senior year was cut short due to the spread of COVID-10, and he'll take that with him to college and on into the rest of his life.

"The one thing is I wish I would've harder in practice," he admitted. "I mean, you always think, 'I'll work harder next week", but when there's not going to be a next week, you never know what you had so just cherish every moment."