In her day-to-day routine, it’s difficult for rookie pole-vaulter Robin Bone to escape the legacy her father Jamie left at Western University as a two-time Vanier Cup champion quarterback.
She walks by a picture of the Hec Crighton award winner — now a QB coach with the Mustangs — on her way to workouts at the Michael Kirkley Mustang Training Centre, and sees it again when she’s grabbing a bite to eat in Labatt Lounge.
“It reminds me (about how) he worked so hard to get his picture up and attain his goals,” Bone said, unfazed by her father’s ubiquitous history, a slightly mischievous smile appearing before this next bit.
“If anything, I always tell my dad that I’m going to get a bigger picture right next to his.”
It’s a lofty goal. Few things will inspire nostalgia like leading a football program to back-to-back national championships as Jamie did in 1976 and 1977.
But Bone isn’t afraid to set her sights high. Actually, she’s already off to a pretty good start.
The Mustangs track and field team was in Windsor Jan. 11 for the 32nd Annual Can Am Track Classic. Among the team’s 14 medals was a gold for Bone, whose 3.92m vault also broke Tanya Krynen’s 10-year-old Western record by 22 cm. The feat briefly put Bone at the top of the CIS rankings.
“It’s pretty cool, that’s for sure,” said Bone, who didn’t compete much last year while nursing an ankle injury that required surgery in October. “I wasn’t sure how well the early season was going to go. We’re not back to a full run yet so hopefully when we get back to a full run, I’ll be able to get up bigger poles and jump higher.”
Bone, 18, was born in Toronto and began her pole vaulting career in Darien, Connecticut. She attended Darien high school where Jamie was a football coach. Mom Manon — also a Western alumna who’s now working at the university — was commuting to nearby New York where she worked with Microsoft and NBC Universal.
Originally, Bone planned to become a gymnast but after multiple concussions before her freshman year of high school, a doctor recommended finding a safer sport. The irony of choosing pole vaulting isn’t lost on her.
“You definitely have to have a screw or two loose,” she said with a laugh, echoing the phrasing of her coach, Dave Collins. “I was told by my concussion doctor I was allowed to do track and field because everyone thinks running — there’s no chance of getting hit in the head.”
Pole vaulting was actually suggested to Bone on her first day of track practice. Gymnasts, after all, often make good pole-vaulters.
“Immediately a light bulb went off in my head — I won’t tell mom and dad,” Bone said.
She trained, struggling to pick up the sport, until it was time for her first meet. Keeping the secret wasn’t an option any longer, so Bone worked out a compromise with her parents and her doctor. She could be a pole-vaulter if she wore a helmet.
“The helmet was a bit embarrassing when I first started because I was very, very bad,” she said. “Then something clicked, my speed starting to click with my strength and my gymnastics.”
Bone picked up the nickname “Helmet Girl” and although it garnered her a few fans, it wasn’t always a term of endearment. Nobody was laughing though when she went on to become a three-time state champion.
“I thrive when people doubt me,” Bone said.
In 2010, Jamie was back in London for the Wall of Champions Induction Dinner at Western. Mustangs track and field coach Vickie Croley heard about Bone’s success and invited her to meet Collins, who also teaches and coaches at Oakridge secondary school. It was exactly what Bone was looking for.
“(Collins) was absolutely my answer,” Bone said. “I have some pretty big goals in mind and I knew he was going to be able to take me to the next level.”
Already planning a return to the Forest City, the family — including Bone’s brother Stevenson, who will be in the hunt to backup Mustang’s QB Will Finch next season — moved back to London. Bone enrolled at Oakridge and began training with Collins.
“She’s a raw talent,” Collins said. “She’s got the athletic ability to jump higher heights than she just did (in Windsor). And she will. Very soon.”
Bone will tell you personally, her ultimate goal comes around about every four years. In the meantime, she’ll work on that picture.