Lafayette High School, 2017-18 Corbett Award
Four years ago, St. Augustine High School football star Leonard Fournette became the first high school athlete to earn the Corbett Award. Citing his status as the consensus top high school football player in the country, selectors gave him the nod for the honor. Many thought it would take another 40 years before another high school athlete reached such levels.
Enter Armand Duplantis from Lafayette High School. Despite being a world-record breaker since he was seven years old, competing as a pole vaulter limited his state-wide (and now world-wide) recognition. However, with his tremendous success in recent years, he has etched his name permanently among the greatest athletes from the state of Louisiana.
Duplantis set his first age-group world-record as a seven-year old. And he continued to shatter pole vaulting marks on an annual basis. Those records reached a pinnacle on May 5, 2018, as he won the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA pole vault state championship while also setting a world junior record with a mark of 19 feet, 5 1/2 inches at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
“He was trying to conserve energy for the 100 (meters), and the plan was for him to not take a lot of jumps,” his father Greg told The Advocate. “I said, ‘I think you can jump 19.’ I wanted him to jump 19 feet and then quit. But he said, ‘No, I feel too good.’ ”
“I wasn’t supposed to jump 19-5 today, but I had to,” Duplantis told The Advocate after the state title. “The plan was to take two jumps. I only took four jumps, but when it’s at that high of a level, it takes a toll on your body. I had to do it.”
For perspective, the NCAA pole vault champion cleared 19 feet, 1 1/2 inches this past June. And Thiago Brad de Silva from Brazil won the 2016 Olympic pole vault championship with a height of 19-8 in Rio de Janeiro.
The current world-record holder in the pole vault is France’s Renaud Lavillenie, who has a mark of 20 feet, 2 1/2 inches. Lavillenie earned Silver in Rio and the 31-year old recently took second place in a European circuit meet in June – the winner was Duplantis, 13 years his junior.
“I hope to continue to improve,” Duplantis said. “I want to break the world record and I hope to win Olympic Gold Medals as well as world championships.”
Greg Duplantis, who was an All-American pole vaulter for LSU from 1982-86 and cleared 19 feet at his peak, coached both of his older sons in the event – he even built a backyard pit to practice the unique event. Andreas, the eldest brother at 24, was a standout pole vaulter for LSU (with a personal-best of 17-7) as well while middle brother Antoine (21), who cleared 14-1, transitioned to baseball at an early age – he starred on the diamond for LSU this season. Younger sister Johanna, a freshman at Lafayette High, added to the family accomplishments by clearing 11-6 to win the LHSAA Class 5A state title.
As the youngest boy, Armand, known as “Mondo,” was watching vaulting from birth. His first vault effort came as a four-year old in the backyard pit. “I always saw my brothers doing it, so it was natural that I would try.”
Mondo gives full credit to his parents – his mother Helena was a heptathlete for LSU – for his success. Both parents have served as his coaches (dad focuses on the vaulting and mom on strength and conditioning) and Duplantis competes internationally for his mother’s home country of Sweden. But he also credits his brothers and his upbringing.
“My brothers were older and thus more athletic, but I still wanted to compete against them,” he said. “And I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of athletes. We played all sports – basketball, soccer, football – and I developed my competitive spirit from there. I fell in love with competition in general.”
Duplantis has spent the summer competing on the world-level in Europe – in meets such as the event in Montreuil outside Paris where he topped the world-record holder. He also captured the U20 world championship in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Finland. Upon returning in mid-August, he will prepare for his first collegiate competition as a member of LSU’s track and field team.