Brian Bergemann: A Reliable Boy

Brian Bergemann, class of 1962, is one of the great pole vaulters in state history.  This is a difficult write-up.  Since Brian was so over-the-top dominant, there simply isn’t all that much that can be added to the record.

As a sophomore in 1960, Brian was an understudy to senior Bob Pepper, one of the best vaulters in the state.  Nonetheless, Brian carved out a great record for a sophomore vaulter, placing 4th at the Suburban Indoor, 2nd at the Suburban Relays and 3rd at the Suburban Outdoor.  He also placed 3rd at the Sectionals, one spot out of qualifying for the State Meet.  Clearly, the consistency which Brian became known for was already there.  Pepper won all three Suburban meets and tied for 2nd in the State Meet at Milwaukee’s North Stadium.  In addition, he set the Bay school record at 12-6-1/2.

Brian and track teammates showing off their multi-dimensional skills in 1961.

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Brian started off his junior 1961 season like gangbusters and never let up for the rest of his Bay career.  He won the Suburban Indoor in a meet record jump of 12-2-3/4.  He followed that up by winning the Suburban Relays with a meet and school record jump of 12-7.

In 1961, the State Meet record was a phenomenal 13-6-3/8 set by Harry Cooper of La Crosse Central in 1943.  That was one of the older state records on the books.  Through the 1950’s, it generally took a jump in the 12-0 to 12-6 range to win the Class A State title.  Brian jumped 12-9 at North Stadium to win the State title.  There had been only two better jumps at the State Meet going back to the beginning in 1895.

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Then at the Suburban Outdoor, which back then was held the week after the State Meet, disaster struck!!!  Brian only won the Suburban title.  He didn’t break the conference record.  That’s what qualified as a bad meet for him.

In 1960, the Bay had finished second at the Suburban Outdoor to Wauwatosa, breaking a run of 10 straight Bay championships.  The normal order of the universe was restored in 1961 with the Bay winning their 19th team title in 22 years.

1962 was a special season for the Bay as a team and Brian in particular.  The team was crazy-loaded with top quality guys all over the place.  It was probably the best team in Bay history, which by definition makes it one of the best teams, if not the best, in State history.  But that’s a story for another day.

There is no suspense here.  Brian won the Suburban Indoor, Suburban Relays, State and Suburban Outdoor meets.  And set a meet record each time.  That’s hard to do.

At the Suburban Indoor at Waukesha Brian jumped 12-5-3/4.


At the Suburban Relays held at the Bay, Brian jumped 13-7.  It’s very possible that was the highest jump in State history to that time.

1962 Bergemann Relays - Copy (2)

Brian qualified for State by winning the Whitefish Bay Sectional.

1962 Pictures 1

Then Brian won the State Meet with a 13-7-1/4 State record vault.  The Bay easily won the team title despite not even having a particularly good overall meet.

1962 Bergemann

Then at the Suburban Outdoor the week after the State Meet, the Bay was dealing with some injuries and the team title was in doubt.  They got a key win late in the meet from junior Dave McDermott in the Mile Run to put them in good shape.  But then they goofed up an exchange in the 880 Relay, which was the last running event of the meet.  All of a sudden, the Bay found themselves in an unfamiliar position — trailing the meet with one event remaining.  Fortunately, that event was the Pole Vault and the Bays could hardly have picked a more reliable boy to depend upon.

1962 Outdoor

That was the capstone to an outstanding career by one of the best athletes in Bay history.

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Brian went on to attend the University of Wisconsin and along with Bay classmate Tom Dakin was one of a group of Wisconsin natives who led the Badgers from the dregs to Big Ten team championships.  Brian had an outstanding career in Madison, winning one Big Ten Pole Vault title, finishing second twice and also had a third, despite dealing with injuries.  I don’t know his college PR, but it is at least 15-4.

And in one of those “Get out of here with the Hollywood stuff, there’s no way that nonsense is true” moments, when Brian won the Big Ten Pole Vault in Evanston in 1964, the member of the Northwestern Court of Honor who presented him his award was Janet O’Toole, a fellow Bay 1962 graduate.

1964 Big Ten

Brian graduated from Wisconsin in 1967 with a degree in Physical Education, later earned a PhD in Exercise Physiology from Penn State and retired from the faculty at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC in 2010.  One of Brian’s sons was a 7-1-1/2 high jumper at Campbell.  There’s something in those genes.

Brian at the Class of 1962’s 50th Reunion.

chicago, whitefish bay high school reunion, art museum

7 thoughts on “Brian Bergemann: A Reliable Boy

  1. This story is fabulous!! I was a 14’6 vaulter at Bay from 1979-1982. State Runner up in 1981 and ranked second in Sate in 1982 until an injury did me in. I vaulted for the great Coach Koerner who coached a bunch of great vaulters. However, after reading this, I say Brian was by far the best vaulter to come out of the Bay!! Great article and thanks for sharing!


  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    The Bay had a lot of great vaulters over the first 50 years. From Grant Gonyo and Paul Farley in the 1940’s to Buzz Humke, Bob Pepper, Brian Bergemann, Dick Double, Dan Begal and Steve Coerper in the 1950’s and 1960’s to Pat Harper, Tom Callahan and Tim Paeschke in the 1970’s to you in the 1980’s. And I’m sure I’ve missed some guys.

    Few schools in the state have a Pole Vault legacy like the Bay.


  3. I have grand sons who are starting track at age 15 And 13. Both are high jumpers and hurdlers. I always admired our great track athletes and their accomplishments. Your story’s are great enspirations to these young men. Any advice would greatly be appreciated. Rich Kohlhoff. Your fan for life


  4. What a wonderful article. You even brought me up at the end of it!

    My Dad is honored to have had such an article written about him; he just shared it with me now as I am hanging out with him. It was great to learn even more details from his Pole Vault accomplishments.


  5. What a great career Brian had at Bay and then at Wisconsin.

    On a seemingly unrelated note, how many Triple Crowns has Bay won over the years? I know Steve Doyle and many others from our Class of ’82 remember easily winning it in our senior year. We were loaded! High jump, pole vault, sprints, 880/800 meter, mile relay, etc.

    It has been discussed quietly among us that our group could have challenged for the State Meet title in Class A…


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