When he was still in grade school, Marshall Faurot recalls watching his older sister when she was one of the top vaulters at Cheney High School.
“My brother (Loren) and I would sit on a picnic blanket and watch them,” he says. “They looked like they were going so high at the time and that looked really cool.”
The Faurots, along with their youngest brother, Carson, found an old metal vaulting pole in their garage. They dug a hole for the plant box, put up two sticks and ran blue tape between them for the cross bar.
“We didn’t know what we were doing, but we were having fun,” Marshall says.
Today, the spring graduate of Scott Community High School is the one that others are looking up to - literally and figuratively.
When Faurot steps onto the vaulting runway Friday afternoon during the Kansas Track and Field Championships he will bring the best height in the state this year at 16-feet-3.
And while he will be favored to win the Class 3A title, he won’t be the only SCHS athlete hoping to earn a vaulting medal. All three Beavers who competed at regional have advanced to state and they have four of the top five heights entering the weekend.
Marshall was content to claim a gold medal with a leap of 15-feet and he will be joined by Loren Faurot, a sophomore, and Hunter Yager, a junior, who finished second and third at regional.
L. Faurot and Yager each had career bests of 14-foot-6 and 14-feet, respectively, to rank among the top four at state.
In addition, sophomore Paige Vulgamore has qualified for her first state track meet after finishing third by matching her career best of 10-foot-6.
The SCHS vaulting program has definitely emerged as one of the state’s best.
Obviously the Faurots, including freshman Carson, and their father, Shane, have been a big part of that success by attending off-season camps where they’ve been able to learn from some of the nation’s top coaches.
“It helps a lot when we have athletes who have gone to vault camps and learned from true experts who have coached 19-foot vaulters,” says SCHS assistant coach Kevin Reese. “I’ve learned a lot from these vaulters when they come back.
“Every year, Marshall picks up some little thing that even I, as a coach, don’t always see. But he sees things right away that the others need to correct. He passes that knowledge to me and it makes me a better coach.”
While he was inspired by his sister’s success, vaulting didn’t come as easily to Marshall as it might seem.
“I really enjoyed it in middle school, but it wasn’t until high school that I began to figure out the right form,” Faurot says. “I didn’t have the body strength to get upsidedown or even to bend a pole until I was a sophomore.”
Loren credits the SCHS coaching staff and the instruction at camps with the success he’s enjoyed this season.
“I remember going to track meets and watching guys go 14-feet and thinking that was the coolest thing. I didn’t see myself being one of those guys,” he says.
Building a Program
Yager remembers watching his older brother as a vaulter, but never considered it an event in which he could excel.
When he was in seventh grade, Yager recalls filling out a track sign-up sheet on which they were to mark the events in which the young athletes wanted to compete.
“I was sitting next to Marshall and I said I couldn’t do the pole vault because I wasn’t strong enough. Marshall told me to give it a try and I’ve been hooked ever since,” says Yager.
He admits one has to be a “little crazy to throw themselves 14 or 15 feet into the air and expect to land on something soft.” But it’s hard to escape the adrenaline rush.
“And it’s an event that not very many people are good at,” he notes.
Yager has seen the number of vaulters at the middle school and high school levels grow significantly during his short time with the program. He gives credit to the Faurot family for the time they’ve put in attending camps and the knowledge they share.
“I’m best friends with these guys. We’re very competitive, but we also like doing what we can to make each other better,” he says.
Two Share Record
That love for the event and success has also carried over to the Lady Beavers who saw Madison Shapland and Paige Vulgamore set a new school record of 10-foot-6 this season.
“I started (vaulting) in the seventh grade and I’ve loved it ever since,” says Vulgamore.
She says it’s not just what she’s learned from the coaching staff that’s seen her improve so much over the past two seasons, but the knowledge that her teammates have passed along.
“In the other events, the coaches can tell you what to fix, but in vaulting you can also get a lot of help from your teammates,” she says.
As someone who only cleared 4-foot-11 in her first track meet as a seventh grader, Vulgamore admits she never expected this level of success.
“I had no idea what I was doing then, but I stuck with it and I’ve kept getting better,” she adds.
A Big Commitment
While knowledge is undoubtedly essential to success, Reese also credits the investment that’s been made in the program. When he first became the vaulting coach, the athletes didn’t have many poles from which to choose.
“A jumper might have a couple of poles they could use and once they got to the point where they were blowing through a pole it was a matter of making the best with what we had,” remembers Reese.
Over the past few years, the number of poles has increased significantly thanks to the school district, parents and other donors. A larger variety of poles is necessary as vaulters grow and improve.
“You hate to find yourself in a situation where a vaulter could go higher if only you had another one or two poles,” says Reese.
Better equipment, more knowledge and an overall excitement about vaulting have contributed to bringing more athletes into the event and it’s elevated the SCHS program to one of the state’s best.
“Not only do we have a team that supports each other, but we have a tight vaulting community. The competition amongst ourselves pushes everyone to do a little better,” continues Reese. “I didn’t expect this level of success, but these kids have worked hard and they deserve the success they’ve had.”
He also acknowledges the contribution that Shane Faurot has made and the work he’s doing to develop vaulters in the middle school.
“He does a great job of giving those kids the fundamentals they need. When they come into high school and they’re already doing things the right way, it gives them a big head start,” Reese adds. “It allows us to keep building on our success.”