East County pole vaulters soar to new heights during summer months

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The San Diego Pole Vault Club has had quite an active summer by participating in a number of events as well as receiving weekly instruction.

The club, which draws participants primarily from East County schools, is under the direction of Lyle Barton, who serves as the pole vault coach at El Capitan High School and pole vault/multi-event coach at Cuyamaca College.

His current group is drawn from Grossmont district high schools as well as Otay Ranch, Scripps Ranch and St. Augustine high schools and several Masters participants.

The San Diego Pole Vault Club has had quite an active summer by participating in a number of events as well as receiving weekly instruction.

The club, which draws participants primarily from East County schools, is under the direction of Lyle Barton, who serves as the pole vault coach at El Capitan High School and pole vault/multi-event coach at Cuyamaca College.

His current group is drawn from Grossmont district high schools as well as Otay Ranch, Scripps Ranch and St. Augustine high schools and several Masters participants.

The group meets twice during the week during the summer and once a week once school starts.

“We have a good mix of experience,” Barton said.

The summer season for the high school group began with the San Diego Multi-Event Championship meet June 9-10 at University City High School.

The San Diego Pole Vault Club placed five athletes among the top 10 place-winners in the boys decathlon and two of the top three place-finishers in the girls heptathlon.

El Capitan’s Caroline Calvert and Courtney Chase finished second and third, respectively, in the seven-event heptathlon. Calvert tallied 3,070 points in the two-day competition while Chase accumulated 2,382 points.

Westview’s Alexxis Brown captured the 2018 heptathlon title with 3,935 points.

Calvert won the 800-meter run in 2:22.28 while Chase, competing in the event for the first time, finished runner-up in 2:41.21.

Barton had athletes place fifth through ninth in the 10-event decathlon as well as one participant place 14th after withdrawing from the competition due to an injury.

David Pfeifer (St. Augustine) placed fifth overall with 4,207 points, followed by the El Capitan quartet of Alex Breisacher (sixth place with 4,185 points), Gabriel Robledo (seventh place with 3,906 points), Andrew Raleigh (eighth place with 3,666 points) and Elijah Maxie (ninth place with 3,100 points).

The top three place-finishers in this year’s high school boys decathlon included Vista Academy’s Connor Luck (first place with 6,343 points) and the Rancho Bernardo duo of Jackson Carpenter (second place with 5,391 points) and Luis Vega (third place with 5,160 points).

Luck’s mark of more than 6,000 points ranks him among the top performers in the long history of the event. He recorded top marks in six of the 10 events at this year’s competition.

Barton served as the director of the multi-event championship meet for 18 years before recently handing over the meet to other coaches. He said the major satisfaction from running the meet was “the aspect of bringing new events to kids they may not have tried before.”

In many cases, the seed that was planted sprouted into new pathways at the collegiate level.

Kortney Ross, who would go on to win the girls pole vault at the high school state track and field championship meet and subsequently compete at both Cuyamaca College and San Diego State University (and now is a member of the Chula Vista Elite Club), competed in the multi-event championship meet while in middle school.

Nick Christie competed in the multi-event championship meet while at Grossmont High School.

State Games

Barton had six club members participate at this year’s 30th annual California State Games track and field competition held the weekend of July 14-15 at University City High School.

Charles Kendall took first place in the Masters 55-60 age category by clearing 12-0 to provide the highlight for the five place-winners from the club.

Raleigh, an incoming junior at El Capitan, took third place in the 15-16 boys competition by clearing 11-0 while Iliana Marrujo, an incoming senior at Grossmont High School, placed fourth in the 17-18 girls division by clearing 7-6.

Maxie cleared 10-6 to place seventh in the 17-18 boys division while Breisacher cleared 10-0 to place eighth.

Club members were scheduled to wrap up their summer competition at Wednesday’s final tour stop of the San Diego Summer Nights Track and Field Series at San Diego State University.

The series of informal all-comers meets started June 6 at University City High School and featured additional stops June 20 at Cuyamaca College, July 11 at San Diego Mesa College, July 18 at Sweetwater High School and Aug. 1 at San Diego City College.

Barton said the emphasis on the Summer Nights series was to continue to develop skills and become more comfortable with competing.

The summer competition includes all age divisions, including recent high school graduates, those currently in college programs and those training for Masters competitions.

“It’s great because, when you are there, there is always someone to compete against and at the end of day it makes everyone better,” explained Andrew Higgins, a 2018 graduate of El Capitan High School.

Higgins competed in the hurdles, pole vault and 4×100 relay his senior season at El Capitan, setting a personal record of 11-8 in the pole vault.

He also notched PRs in the 110 high hurdles (20.44) and 300 intermediate hurdles (51.98) during the 2018 high school season.

Upward bound

Barton has coached at the high school level for 25 years; the upcoming season will be his 19th at Cuyamaca College.

Over the years Barton has seen many of his community college athletes soar to new heights.

This past season at Cuyamaca, sophomore Kim Klarer cleared 11-2.75 to finish ninth among female community college vaulters in the nation. She placed first at the conference meet, sixth at the Southern California regional and eight at the community college state meet.

Delving farther into the past at Cuyamaca, El Capitan alumnus Tim Montgomery cleared 16-2 to win the 31st Aztec Invitational in 2009 while Steele Canyon graduate Shane Hoagland cleared 16-1 to place second at the 2014 state meet.

Otay Ranch High School alumnus Xander Cooper (formerly Law), a two-time All-American at Cuyamaca, cleared 16-4 to place second at the state meet in 2015 (after placing fourth his freshman year). The 16-4 mark stood as the third best in the nation among community college athletes.

Cooper would go on to clear 17-4.75 while subsequently attending Long Beach State.

Ben Knight, originally from Mar Vista High School before attending Cuyamaca, went on to win the 2005 NAIA men’s decathlon championship with 6,965 points while at Dickinson State in North Dakota.

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve helped them step up that ladder a bit,” Barton said.

While the summer season may be winding down, Barton remains active year-round.

The community college track and field season runs from January to May while the high school season runs from February to June.

However, many of Barton’s track and field athletes will be hitting the weight room during the fall in preparation for the upcoming community college season.

Practice makes perfect.

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