Arizona becoming a power in pole vaulting

One thing has become clear during Jeff Guy’s coaching career: He sure knows how to pick ’em.

Guy is a two-time National Pole Vault Coach of the Year and might be in the running again this year with the season the Desert Vista (Phoenix) vaulters are having as the Arizona state meet nears.

He has been coaching the event for more than 25 years and has zeroed in on certain athletes, but at the same time is willing to teach anyone who shows an interest.

“Everyone says it takes someone tall and fast,” Guy said. “It makes sense from a physical standpoint but if there is someone willing to give it a shot we will take them. It doesn’t matter what their body type is if they have the right attitude.”

It is pretty clear many of the athletes at Desert Vista over the recent years have had the right mindset to be successful with the pole vault in their hands and the mat as their landing spot. Two years ago, Guy tutored five different girls who cleared 12 feet or higher, including two who reached at least 13 feet.

Now this season, the boys are the ones with the large contingent clearing a respectable height. The Thunder have had eight different individuals reach 14 feet this year.

Whereas most schools are lucky to get one athlete to reach such heights, Desert Vista continually has competitors soaring to new heights. This year, freshman Vanessa Davis broke the female state record at 12 feet,  0.25 inches.

Desert Vista is known for producing some of the best athletes in the state regardless of sport. And when you add that with Guy’s tutelage it makes for a great combination.

“The coaching and the environment forces you to excel,” junior Scott Marshall said. “We are all pushing each other to get better.”

Marshall and senior teammate Matt Arsenau have been the team’s best thus far, both clearing 15-6 this season, while other top vaulters are senior Aidan Foster (14-6), junior Jon Giles (14-6), senior Tommy Kennedy (14-6), junior Justin Tobin (14-3.25), junior Kyle Bodnicki (14-0) and junior Adam Puchi (14-0).

Arsenau said Guy’s coaching style is one of the main reasons the Thunder are always among the best.

“He pushes but he kind of lets you push yourself,” he said. “Everyone respects him and he doesn’t have to bite us in the butt to motivate us because we want to keep getting better.”

Guy has his style and is clearly very successful. But there are coaches in Arizona who helped area athletes clear heights that athletes in other states have trouble approaching. In Queen Creek there is the Arizona Pole Vault Academy that has produced the state’s top vaulter – Garrett Starkey of Basha (Chandler) – and for good reason.

His father, Dean, and stepmom, Jill, are passing on their wisdom to area pole vaulters. Dean cleared 19-5 in his prime and Jill won the masters world title at last summer, according to the Arizona Republic. About 30 individuals have come to their home and left better for it.

Nick Hysong, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault, has a pole vault pit in his back yard in northern Phoenix and he is an assistant coach at Chaparral (Scottsdale). He has a stable of disciples that come to him and Hysong just wants to pass on the art of vaulting.

“At the moment it might be the group of kids that I have, but I’ve been lucky,” Hysong, who still owns the state record of 17-4 when he was at Tolleson (Phoenix), told the Arizona Republic. “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.”

While Hysong and the Starkeys help people from all over the place, Guy concentrates mostly on those who walk the halls at Desert Vista, which continually produces some of the state’s very best.

“We don’t talk about winning state,” he said. “If they PR at state but don’t win how could that be considered a failure?”

By:  Jason Skoda

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Jeff Guy

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