The Winders have left a legacy at North Central. With father Tim, and pole vaulters Jake, Josh and Luke, they have etched their name all over the record books.
Luke: That might be the number one moment of my college career.
With two individual national championships under his belt, then-sophomore Luke Winder set the bar even higher at indoor Nationals in Iowa… both literally and figuratively.
Luke: I remember coming down and yelling so loud. I remember my hair was falling up and down and then I just sprinted off the pit because I had so much energy built up because I wanted to make it… it’s hard to put into the words the feeling that that was.
18 feet, 1 and a quarter inch. The indoor national meet record…
Tim: He and I both knew, if you want to jump high you have to risk something. He came to me before that jump and said ‘I’m going on that bigger pole” and I was like “yes”. That’s what I wanted to say but as a coach you have to hold back a little bit – he has to make that choice for himself.
This is a story of total domination.
Luke just wrapped up not just an illustrious career… but THE MOST illustrious career in NCAA history. In his four years at North Central College, the Plainfield native won 7 out of 8 possible national titles in the pole vault… while placing second by 3 inches in his only “down” season.
This is also a story about a family.
Luke Winder: My grandpa pole vaulted back in the day; obviously a long, long time ago. And that led to my dad doing it. And my dad actually started to fall in love with it when he was 10 years old
Luke’s father Tim is the pole vault coach at North Central – has been for 25 years… Swayed by head coach, then assistant coach, Frank Gramarosso to join the program
Gramarosso: I convinced him to bring his camps here and be our pole vault coach. It started with Jake, who went away and wasn’t happy with where he was at and came back and spent three years here. And then Josh was here and then Luke was here and what a great family and a great coach and athletes too.
Luke’s brothers Jake and Josh combined for 5 individual national titles before Luke arrived as a college freshman. To say pole vaulting, North Central and the name Winder are synonymous… is an understatement.
Tim: We’re a little bit wired a little differently than others. It’s one of those challenging events that if you’re going to go at it, you have to go all in on it. And we’re all in kind of people.
But Tim and his wife Margo wouldn’t let his sons go all in right away.
Tim: I did not want my sons to be instructed too early on. I wanted them to be good athletes first and just run around and play. And so I never instructed them in pole vault
And so the desire to vault grew organically for who would become the owner of both the indoor and outdoor national meet records
Luke: I’m 5-12 years old going to all their high school meets. And I just love watching everybody focus on them – the whole state of Illinois, it seemed like, we’re focused on my brothers.
Naturally, in his final meet of his collegiate career, Luke went out on top. Both individual… and as a team, with North Central claiming it’s 6th indoor title.
Luke: I was already thinking “man, we did our job… I think the rest of the guys are going to do their job” and I started kind of thinking about who’s competing next and thinking more confidently that we could get it done and come Saturday night, we ended up doing it.
For the father and coach of three, the meet signified the end of the Winder’s run clearing bars as Cardinals.
Something that hasn’t sunk in… yet.
Tim: One day I will look back at it and I’ll be appreciative of all that. And I am so thankful for it and I’m blessed beyond measure.
12 individual titles and 7 team championships will forever be attributed to the Winder name at North Central. Setting the bar even higher.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman.
To find out more about North Central College Track and Field visit the North Central Athletics website.