In such a short stint at UTEP, senior pole vaulter Paulo Benavides was able to capture national recognition for his efforts this season and was named Conference USA Co-Men’s Field Athlete of the Year.

For Benavides, a Franklin graduate from the class of 2015, this season was about ending his career on the right note. The Kansas transfer decided to join his dad, Paul Benavides, at UTEP for his final season of eligibility. Paul, who is an assistant track and field coach at UTEP, was a prolific pole vaulter himself and held the Mexican National record for 13 years at 5.72m (18-9.5) after his college career with the Miners in the late 80s.

Before he went off to nationals, Paulo told SportsTalk that he was proud of the personal turnaround he experienced this season.

"I've been struggling for a while, for the last few years,” Benavides revealed. “But these past couple of months, I've been really turning it around. I feel like I'm getting back to my own form again.”

The difference?

"Enjoying myself again. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I was letting outside things affect me in the ways I approach a meet. Now I'm just enjoying myself and having a good time. It's working out."

It sure did work out in various meets this season. He earned first team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships when he jumped 5.30m (16-4.5) to take seventh place.

He became the first Miner male pole vaulter to make it to nationals since 1998 (Mikhail Gorbatenko in Buffalo, N.Y.). He jumped his personal best 5.45m (17-10.5) at the West Prelims, and also won a C-USA title for his jump of 5.36m (17-7) in the league championships.

“Paulo didn’t come into this season with guns blazing due to some setbacks during the last couple of seasons of his collegiate career,“ UTEP head coach Mika Laaksonen said. “He worked hard all year to get back to being closer to his full potential as a pole vaulter. It all started to come together for him during the championship segment of our season. Paulo first won the conference title in pole vault and then placed tied for seventh place at NCAAs, earning his first First-Team All-American honors in the process. What a way to close out one’s collegiate career, and we are proud of his and his coach’s efforts.”

 

Benavides told SportsTalk that he plans to go pro in pole vaulting following his college career.