IRAAN, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Pole vaulting is far from the most popular sport in West Texas, but thanks to his family, one Iraan sophomore is reaching new heights for the Braves.

JD Solis finished third in the state pole vaulting championships last month earning the title as Iraan High School’s best pole vaulter… by default.

“Basically I’m just the only one,” said Solis referring to his status as the Braves’ only pole vaulter.

Solis was first introduced to pole vaulting by a coach who approached him and encouraged him to try the sport out.

Now that he’s hooked and placing at state, it’s his family’s special role that plays a big part in why he’s still competing.

After his original coach transferred to another school, Solis needed someone to coach him.

That person ended up being his dad.

“My dad, he would search up videos online to see what he can do to coach me even better. He’s just sitting there watching the video to see how he can coach me better and I just watch him and I watch with him,” said Solis.

“He’s always teaching me through the steps about these Olympic pole vaulters, college pole vaulters and all that.”

Solis has another family member who has a tremendous influence on him every time he competes– his brother JJ, who passed away a year ago from cancer.

“When he was in the hospital we Facetimed so he could watch me pole vault in my junior high year and I ended up tying for first,” said Solis. “My brother just kept telling me, ‘I’m so proud of you. Keep getting high up in the air.”

“Once he passed away, I felt like every time I went higher in the air, I felt so close to him.”

Wherever JD flies, JJ will always be right above.

“Since my brother really enjoyed me pole vaulting and just admired me for it, I got a shirt made for me. It says ‘Those we love don’t go away. They fly beside us every day.’ On the back it says, ‘Good luck at state brother, JJ.”

JD says his goals now are to break the state record and his school’s pole vault record of 16 and a half feet, set by his first coach decades ago.

He’ll also be recruiting freshmen to try a sport that has given him and his family so much.