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Coached by his father, UTEP pole vaulter Paulo Benavides closing in on record season

EL PASO, Texas - Paul Benavides never pushed pole vaulting on his son Paulo. Honestly, he didn’t have to.

“He kinda found some old tapes in the closet one time, some VHS tapes that type of stuff," says a modest Paul, who after a collegiate pole vaulting career at UTEP and New Mexico set 12 records for Mexican National Team. "He popped them in, and I said 'Oh you don't need to look at that stuff."

After a professional career that took him around the world, Paul settled back in El Paso with his wife Rita, who he met while both competed on UTEP's Track and Field team.

Paul admittedly expected his son to become an 800m distance runner, but Paulo was enamored by dad's competition of pole vault.

"We always talked about it growing up and it seemed super interesting to me. So I got into it at a young age," says Paulo of his interest in pole vault.

Like most kids, Paulo also competed in football and soccer growing up before going to his dad during his freshman year at Franklin High School in El Paso.

"After his freshman year in high school, he said I want to do this full time," says Paul. "I said ok. Let’s do it and see where it takes us.”

At Franklin, it took Paulo to two Texas 6A state championships and appearances at the Pan-American Games with the United States Youth National Team.

His success earned him a scholarship with the Kansas Jayhawks, where he won a Big 12 Indoor title in 2017.

But when COVID-19 canceled the 2020 outdoor season and gave him an extra year of eligibility, he opted to use it at UTEP where his dad serves on staff as the jump coach.

“Once like this opportunity came up here, I was like oh yeah that’s going to be awesome," says Paulo, who had already planned to train for a professional career after graduation. "I was looking forward to coming back here to jump with my dad anyway so it ended up working pretty well.”

After a gold medal finish at the Conference USA Championships last week, Paulo is eyeing a prize at next month’s NCAA National Championships in Oregon.

But in his own household, he’s eyeing his dad’s personal best pole vault of 18"7 set with the Mexican National Team back in the 1990s.

“I definitely want to jump higher than he’s jumped for sure," says Paulo, who personal best sits at 17"9 from his Kansas days. "Ever since I started jumping that's always been in my head."

Paul, who also coaches the rest of the UTEP triple and high jumpers, says his relationship with Paulo is professional at practice.

“As soon we’re on the track, it’s all business,” he laughs.

But off the track, Paul the father is glad his son will finish a stellar college career back at home.

“I definitely would like to see him finish out wherever made him the most happy," says Paul, who also has a daughter Bella on the UTEP soccer team. "He seems to be enjoying himself here so I guess he made a good choice. And in the end it’s all up to whatever makes him the happiest."

Next up for Paulo are the NCAA Regional Championships, scheduled from May 26-29 at Texas A&M University.

Article Topic Follows: UTEP

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Nate Ryan

Nate Ryan is an ABC-7 sports anchor/reporter.


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