Saturday February 24, 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 …

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Harrison Williams moments after winning the Pan American Juniors and breaking the U.S junior national record. Photo Credit: Gerald Williams

Harrison Williams moments after winning the Pan American Juniors and breaking the U.S. junior national record.
Photo Credit: Gerald Williams

Originally published in Vaulter Magazine, September 2015 by Adele Correale San Miguel

When Harrison Williams grabbed a pole as a gangly 15-year-old to compete in his first decathlon, no one believed he had the strength to sprint down the runway and haul himself over the bar, let alone triumph in the other nine events. He was only running track to stay in shape for his main sport, basketball.

Harrison had never vaulted, nor attempted seven of the ten events that make up the multis. At that meet, Harrison stiff-poled over the opening height to vault 8-11.75.

A few months later, Harrison placed 8th at the AAU Junior Olympics, his first national decathlon. Only a few points separated him from 4th place. Instead of grandstanding about being one of the best in the nation, Harrison experienced regret. Had he trained a bit harder, run the 1500 a little faster, he could have finished much higher. He wanted to improve, not for the accolades, but for the intrinsic satisfaction of performing at his best. He could do this.

Fast forward 4 years. Harrison is a true freshman at Stanford, representing the United States at the 2015 Pan Am Juniors in

Edmonton, Canada. He takes home the gold, breaks the U.S. junior record with a score of 8,037, and pole vaults in a field of one, his opening height surpassing the last height of his closest competitor. Harrison had been, it seems, a track star masquerading as a basketball player.

A family's legacy: Harrison's grandfather's medals won in 1948 alongside one of his own medals from 2014. Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire

A family’s legacy: Harrison’s grandfather’s medals won in 1948 alongside one of his own medals from 2014. Photo credit: Jay Williams

Born in Texas, Harrison grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Jay and Susie Williams. His athleticism runs deep. Harrison’s grandfather, Jess Williams, was Mississippi’s state champion in the 440 meter dash and the 880 meter relay in 1948 and 1949. Jess played baseball for Mississippi State for three years before earning his CPA and serving through accountancy until his death in 2003. Jay was a top 400 meter sprinter and competed in basketball and football in high school; Harrison’s older sister Allie played volleyball for New York University, and his younger sister Julia participates in high school track.

For the Williamses, family is first and encouragement and trust run high. …

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Becoming More Through Track and Field

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