PROVO, Utah — Rick and Brenda Weirich raised black angus cattle, horses, hogs, chickens, nine children and seven pole vaulters on their 20 acres of Texas hill country, not to mention five BYU track and field athletes (and counting).
Talk about convenient. The Weirichs have served as a farm team for the Cougars. This year's team includes three Weirich brothers — Victor, Brian and Josh. They are following in the footsteps of two older brothers who competed for the team a few years ago — Chris and Matt. Their younger brother Kevin, who is serving a Church mission, is probably going to join the Cougars in the future.
"I don't think anything like this has ever happened," says head coach Mark Robison. "It's pretty amazing to have five kids from one family on the team."
Can any Division 1 school claim to have five brothers who competed for one of its teams (soon to be six)? The three Arrhenius brothers — Dan, Nik and Leif — once competed for the Cougars (not all at once), as did their father Anders. But the Weirichs have topped them.
"They've been providing us good athletes for a decade," says distance coach Ed Eyestone.
The Weirichs are more than a novelty act. Three of the brothers have claimed All-American honors and all five of them have placed in the conference championships. Four of the brothers have cleared heights ranging from 15 feet, 9 inches to 18 feet in the pole vault. At the Mountain West Conference championships earlier this year, Josh finished sixth in the seven-event heptathlon, while Brian placed second in the 800 and Victor won the pole vault.
"They are an incredibly talented athletic family," says Robison.
For the record, the Weirich family consists of nine children — two girls and seven boys. All of the boys began their track careers as pole vaulters.
"It started in middle school," says Rick. "The older boys started pole vaulting and they seemed to like it. It took off from there. That became our sport."
Rick built a training facility on the family ranch near Fredericksburg (population 9,000). It included gymnastics rings, chin-up bars and other exercise equipment. Rick also built a 10-foot-high wooden platform on the side of the house. The boys swung from a rope out and over a bungee cord that served as a bar and was suspended over a pit filled with foam rubber.
"You'd stand on the platform and someone would throw the rope up to you," says Victor. "The pit was 15 feet from the platform and the rope was 10 feet away. Luckily, nobody ever got hurt, but we did have some crazy experiences. Sometimes someone wouldn't let go and he'd swing back into the platform."
Chris, who last competed for BYU in 2007, cleared 16 feet, 2 3/4 inches in college while focusing mostly on the multi-events. He placed as high as second in the heptathlon in the Mountain Western Conference indoor championships.
"He was a fearless vaulter," says Robison. "Then during his junior year the poor kid didn't get deep enough into the pit and came down sideways and tore up his knee. He never did recover."
Matt, a year younger than Chris, raised the bar, literally. He cleared 16-8 3/4 in high school and won the Texas state championships and the Adidas National Championships. At BYU, he became an All-American by placing fifth in the NCAA championships, clearing 17 feet, 10 1/2 inches.
"When he was a freshman and struggling in the vault, I made him try the decathlon at the conference meet and he placed third," says Robison. "He had never even done some of the events."
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