Sunday February 18, 2018

Becoming More Through Sport

by Adele Correale San Miguel

Published in Vaulter Magazine on January 1, 2016.

Pole Vault Carolina

Pole Vault Carolina

Pole Vault Carolina began 6 years ago at the insistence of a steadfast parent.

Richard Booth needed a coach for his son, then a junior at Needham Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard sought out Jose R. San Miguel, who was assisting with track and field practice at another local high school.

But Jose had a day job and only attended practice to make sure his son was properly instructed in the vault. There, he witnessed some brash athletes more focused on showmanship than on respecting the integrity of the sport. He would not coach just anyone.

Richard, however, would not give up.

Jose reluctantly agreed to meet his son. Though he suffered from severe shin splints, seventeen year-old Harrison had committed himself to the pole vault. Furthermore, he was an extremely polite, hardworking athlete, a young man worthy of Jose’s time and attention. They shook hands. Soon after, vaulters from other schools began attending practice and Jose installed a pit and runway in his side yard.

A club and a coach were born.

Pole Vault Carolina is a small club with mighty ambition. There is more to coaching an athlete than getting them over the bar. Young people struggle to believe in themselves and Coach Jose challenges them to deeply desire their personal success. When mental churn causes athletes to falter, he instructs them to fill a journal with affirmations. The intention is to instill an impenetrable mentality of yes, I can.

Something is working.

Cary Academy Senior Carter Mathis

Cary Academy Senior Carter Mathis

Pole Vault Carolina athletes regularly compete on the larger stages. Cary Academy senior Carter Mathis qualified for New Balance Nationals Indoors in his first meet of the current season. Other vaulters who train regularly include Needham Broughton senior Matt Dillon, also in contention to qualify for NBN;  Chapel Hill High’s Dillon Kopec, who will play a key role in the 3A state championships; Panther Creek junior Midori Kirby, a former gymnast, has made great improvements in her form and is expected to exceed 11′ this season; and newcomer Skyler Noble, a freshman high diver from East Chapel Hill shows great promise. Athletes range from Jose’s 8 year-old son, Antonio, to masters’ vaulter Kevin Anderson.

In its 6-year history, Pole Vault Carolina has graduated 75% of its athletes to the D1 and D3 levels, including Coach’s son, Jose, to High Point University, and daughter, Sofia, a freshman at pole vault powerhouse, Appalachian State University. Young Jose is the ironic wit behind @polevaultprobs.

Pole Vault Carolina

Pole Vault Carolina

Pole Vault Carolina practices 3 times per week, 12 months of the year. During the outdoor season, the club convenes at Cary Academy, a private school with a pristine track, brand new Gill pit, and a history of sharing their top notch facility with the community.

New to Pole Vault Carolina is the acquisition of an indoor space. With firsthand experience of the Tar Heel State’s inclement winters, Coach Jose rented a warehouse. It is a gritty, concrete shell with a 22’ ceiling. Think Rocky Balboa’s gym. It houses a collegiate-sized pit, an 86’ elevated runway, gymnastics equipment, and a narrow strip for hurdle running. Pole Vault Carolina hosts NCHSAA sanctioned meets, and AAU sponsored clinics. The facility is needed. There is only one other club in the state with an indoor training facility. Until now, indoor season pole vault meets were either polar bear, or held nearly 2 hours away at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

Pole Vault Carolina is committed to the development of this field event. It is the only

Antonio San Miguel

Antonio San Miguel

club in the state that brings in marquee headliners to host clinics. Olympic coach Jim Bemiller visited in 2009; Olympian and World Champion Brad Walker in 2013; and April Steiner Bennett in the fall of 2015. The clinics provide an opportunity for local athletes and coaches to learn from those at the pinnacle of the sport.

In 2015, there were 829 registered high school pole vaulters in the state and the sport is growing. In recent years, the area has made deliberate efforts to improve the safety of the vault and Coach Jose has been instrumental. A vocal advocate, Jose has formally instructed high school coaches in North Carolina and Virginia at the North Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Conference, and through NCHSAA. With an in-depth curricula, he trained participants on starting a new athlete, the physics and psyche of the sport, and why a coach should never put an inexperienced vaulter into a meet the day of, just so the team can score points.

Jose is Pole Vault Carolina’s only coach and his resume is noteworthy. As a high schooler in his native Puerto Rico, he was an 8-time national champion in the pole vault, decathlon, high jump, and long jump. At the junior and senior levels, he earned a spot on the national team 6 times. He competed in the 1988 Olympic Trials in pole vault.

Born in Guaynabo to Jose San Miguel Colon and Carmen Rita Pedrosa, Jose excelled at athletics early on. At the age of 9, he earned a black belt in judo. At 12, he began participating in track and field after witnessing the Pan American Games, held that year in the island’s capital. In 1984, he started pole vaulting and Cristobal Lago, who had coached every Puerto Rican Olympian in the pole vault from 1950 to 1980, came out of retirement to train him.

Jose attended the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, where he won the University Championships in 1985. The year following, he transferred to the University of Tennessee where he grew under the tutelage of pole vault maestro Jim Bemiller, who later coached Tim Mack to the gold medal in Athens in 2004. Jose’s name is engraved on a wall at UT which pays homage to the university’s lettermen.

In 1988, at the end of his collegiate career, Jose laid down his poles and did not think about them again until his eldest son expressed an interest in the sport.

At Pole Vault Carolina, it’s not about the bar; it’s about what the bar can help an athlete2S7A8972 become: a confident surmounter of obstacles. What the youth achieve as athletes matters; what matters more is how the lessons learned from the sport propel them forward in life.

After winning the outdoor state meet in 2012, Harrison moved on to the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where he wrote his first freshman composition on Coach Jose.

He said, “Never have I met an individual so passionate, resolute, and untiring in their pursuit to spread this desire to succeed. His methods, being dogmatic and persevering, only led me and others to obtain an equivalent aspiration for success. Not only did I have the opportunity to be led down such a major path in my life by Coach, but I have also been blessed with long-lasting friendship with his family as well. They have been teammates, friends, and now an entire chapter in my life that I will forever be appreciative of.”

It was Harrison who convinced Sofia to trade her basketball shoes for pole vault spikes.

2012 State Champ Harrison Booth with Coach Jose R. San Miguel

2012 State Champ Harrison Booth with Coach Jose R. San Miguel

He will graduate this coming May with a degree in Criminal Justice and a double minor in Sociology and Pre-Law. Harrison intends to serve our country with careers in the military and federal law enforcement.

Coach Jose, now a USATF certified coach, is also a silver level dealer for Gill Athletics. In between his main job as sales director of an engineering firm, and coaching, he refurbishes old pits so they might be available to schools and families who cannot afford the new pit price tag.

The club has taken on an energy of its own. Pole Vault Carolina fosters the dream of a higher endeavor and holds the kids accountable in their pursuit of it.  Pole vault clubs fill a gap in the general category of youth athletics, where improvement is needed. Every young person merits a shot at greatness and team sports often focus only on the star performers. There are no benchwarmers in pole vault.

Pole Vault Carolina not only teaches the technical skills in an event few attempt, it inspires a will to become more. Coupled with encouragement from the coach and purposeful action on the part of the athlete, success occurs: the pole vaulters believe in themselves.


January 2016 Issue of Vaulter Magazine Available Today!

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Pole Vault Carolina
Becoming More Through Track and Field

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