Former World Class vaulters help AZ high school athletes

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Former World Class vaulters help AZ high school athletes

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:17 pm ... letes.html

Ex-world pole vaulters help Arizona high school athletes

by Richard Obert - Mar. 15, 2012 06:18 PM
The Arizona Republic

The gate is open. Young athletes come through the back yard, walk past the swimming pool and step into pole vaulting nirvana at the Queen Creek home of Dean and Jill Starkey.

Next to a corral holding eight horses is the Arizona Pole Vault Academy, where the state's top high school vaulter needs only to roll out of bed and walk about 50 yards to get to his workouts.

Garrett Starkey, a senior at Chandler Basha who won the Division I pole vaulting championship last track and field season and set a state junior record at 16 feet, 11/4 inches, has everything he needs. A father -- who once was among the world's best in the vault and cleared 19-5 -- as his coach. A stepmom -- who last summer won the masters world title in the pole vault at age 40 -- to encourage him.

Garrett is among 30 young pole vaulters from roughly a 25-mile radius who train at the Starkeys' 21/2 acre estate.

"When Garrett was starting high school, I knew I had to have a place where we could set up a pole vaulting pit, and my wife wanted to teach kids how to ride horses," Dean Starkey said. "She came across this house.

"It fits all of our needs."

They set it up as an official club facility through U.S. Track and Field, which covers liability. The athletes pay a monthy fee.

The homes are so spread out that it's hidden away from neighbors. A huge shade tree stands in the background, as the vaulters peer down the runway, gather momentum and launch themselves into the sky, where rubber bands at various levels run across the upright poles. They fall into a big spongy blue pad.

"That's better, Brandon," Dean Starkey says to Brandon Childs of Wyoming, who came to a community college in the Valley only to find the Starkeys' facility for specialized training.

He practically lives there now.

In north Phoenix, 2000 Olympic gold medalist Nick Hysong has his own pole vaulting pit set up in his back yard, where he trains about 16 high school athletes, including Phoenix Horizon junior Grant Sisserson, who has cleared over 15 feet this season.

Hysong, an assistant coach at Scottsdale Chaparral who still gets his fix skate boarding, and, at 40, may make one more run at the Olympic Trials this summer, turned his garage into a weight room and his back yard into a pole vault pit. He is building a wall and adding a track for athletes to run sprints. He also trains athletes in other sports to build speed and strength.

"Try to move your hands maybe a little earlier forward and then bring them up," Hysong instructs a vaulter. "Adjust it and move your hands earlier."

Though still a competitor, Hysong is much like his dad, Cranston, who was his pole vault coach in high school at Tolleson in 1990 when he set a state record (17-4) that still stands today. He loves working with kids.

This is a dream home for Hysong, who had to travel to tracks to run and get his pole vaulting workouts when he was at Tolleson.

"At the moment it might be the group of kids that I have, but I've been lucky," Hysong said. "I've had a phenomenal group of kids who have wanted to come out here. Even the ones who have gone on to college, I still work with them over the phone or on video. It's been great."

Sisserson used to train at the Starkeys, before Hysong last year put up his own facility from his home, called Risen Performance.

"That's a long drive," Sisserson said about Starkey's Queen Creek spread. "This helps a lot."

Sisserson figures to give Starkey a run at state in what may be the most competitive field of boys vaulters Arizona has seen since Hysong was competing at Tolleson. He goes from his Horizon workouts to Hysong's house for more specialized training in the pole vault.

"To get a private coach like this, you try to learn as much as you can," Sisserson said. "It really helps."

Arizona pole vaulting has been on the rise since Hysong's prep days with gurus Greg Hull (Hysong's personal coach when he won Olympic gold), Jeff Guy and Joe Sullivan leading the charge.

It is one of the few sports that is a fraternity, where coaches help other coaches and athletes cheer for their competitors before jumps.

Starkey said Hysong's facility doesn't cut into what he is doing, because of the great distance between the homes.

Guy, who coaches at Phoenix Desert Vista (which has two of the top boys, Matt Arseneau and Scott Marshall, both 15-7 this season), takes care of the Ahwatukee area. Sullivan, a coach at Mesa Mountain View, handles a lot of the Mesa area for aspiring vaulters.

Hysong has T-shirts and a Website, but, like Starkey, it's mostly word of mouth about their at-home facilities.

"During high school season it gets a little harder because you have track meets all week," Hysong said. "You kind of let them come when they can. Occasionally, it gets a little big, but, if it happens, you just spend extra time."

The Starkeys have lights set up for night vaulting.

Jill Starkey, who was Jill Wittenwyler during her world eliite competitive days, said sometimes after a long day of training she'll get the vaulters on her horses to wind down.

Dean and Jill split up the pole-vault coaching.

"She's better at getting the kids started," said Dean Starkey, who, even turning 45 this month, would still be competing if not for a nagging Achilles injury. "She's a lot more patient. Once they get a little better, and they're more competitive, I'll take those in a different group."

Starkey's two best friends, Basha juniors Nathan Hiett (15-3 this year) and Cody Smith (13-6), train with Garrett at his home, which he calls "sweet."

Vaulting is always supervised by Jill or Dean.

Garrett Starkey, a Stanford signee, didn't get serious with pole vaulting until he started high school, only because his dad wouldn't let him for fear of burning him out young. The young Starkey has gone as high as 16-7 in a meet. He puts no limits on what he can do.

He said he not only wants to break Hysong's state record but to get to 18 feet during his senior year.

"I don't think age has anything to do with it," Garrett said. "Training-wise, I'm like a college athlete right now with the workouts we're doing."

As for getting on a horse, Garrett would rather be practicing the pole vault in the back of the house.

"They usually go on show rides and they're just walking (the horses) and I get kind of bored," Garrett said. "I want to go fast. But they won't let me because they don't want me to get hurt."

With the year-round academy, the Starkeys rarely get away. But why go anywhere?

"It's hard to go anywhere and go on vacation when vacation is here," Jill said.

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