NEW BRAUNFELS —
But that “side job” has grown into a 7,800-square-foot facility that includes about 200 practice poles and a video system that allows his students to detect their flaws. This week, he has turned his attention to four Austin-area pole vaulters who will compete at this weekend’s UIL state track and field meet.
Westlake’s Nicole Summersett, Wimberley’s Kally Long and Hays’ Meagan Gray and Rebekah Pogue aspire to become the next pole vaulter from Allison’s stable to earn state gold. He already has produced more than a dozen state champions.
“Watch the top hand,” Allison told Summersett on Tuesday, after she clipped the crossbar on her 12-foot attempt. Summersett nodded in agreement, then watched video of her vault on a 32-inch TV adjacent to the pit at Allison’s Lone Star Pole Vault Club.
“I would love to vault in college someday and eventually make it to the Olympics,” said Summersett, a sophomore whose father Bob competed in the pole vault at Texas.
The state meet begins Friday and ends Saturday, bringing in hundreds of competitors from around the state.
Since 2002, Allison has coached 13 boys and girls who won gold medals at the state meet, five more who were silver medalists and three who took bronze.
His 24-year career as a competitor and coach began when he pole vaulted on an abandoned blacktop tennis court in Grahamsville, N.Y. He recalls failing to clear five feet in his first track meet at Ellenville High School, with the “stench from a sewage treatment plant upwind from the track.”
From those humble beginnings in 1989, Allison has focused on learning — and teaching — the pole vault, calling it his “personal quest for the Holy Grail.”
That quest inspired him to build an outdoor pole vaulting pit at his San Marcos home in 2002. In 2007, he built a sprawling two-story home on the outskirts of New Braunfels, which includes an indoor pole vault pit.
Allison and his staff — including former Abilene Christian heptathlete Jessica Blair — train roughly 60 pole vaulters, ranging from age 7 to an 89-year-old man named Adolph Hoffman.
Allison’s list of state champions includes two from Hays — Britni Lawrence (2003-2004) and Jessica Doyle (2007-2008). Lawrence broke the state record seven times, becoming the first girl in Texas to clear 12 feet and then 13 feet. Doyle soared 12 feet, 6.5 inches as a 14-year-old freshman, a national youth record that still stands.
“Kris is very technical when he’s teaching, which is great because I’m a very visual person,” said Doyle, who recently completed her career at Texas. “He teaches every part of the jump and is one of the most encouraging coaches I’ve known.”
Lawrence and Doyle are trailblazers for Gray and Pogue, two sophomores who aspire to become Hays’ state champion.
“I want to follow that trend,” said Gray, a 5-foot dynamo who already has already won four junior national titles.
While Gray and Pogue hope to add to Hays’ legacy of pole vaulters, Long is Wimberley’s lone entry at state for the third straight year. Long finished second last spring and figures to be a favorite on Saturday because two-time state champion Jessie Johnson of Argyle has graduated.
Long, whose father Mitch was a Longhorns pole vaulter, aims to break the 3A state meet record of 13 feet, 1 inch. Considering she recently cleared a personal-best 13-3, that record could tumble.
“Since I was in the sixth grade, I’ve been the only girl in school to even to even try the pole vault,” Long said.
Come Saturday, she could become the first Wimberley girl to win a gold medal for it.
NINE AT STATE
New Braunfels-based pole vault guru Kris Allison has nine vaulters competing at state this weekend, including four from the Austin area:
Class 5A – Nicole Summersett, Westlake; Travis Toliver, Hou. Cypress Woods; Calie Spencer, New Braunfels Canyon; Alyssa Gullo, Houston Cypress Woods
Class 4A – Meagan Gray, Hays; Rebekah Pogue, Hays
Class 3A – Kally Long, Wimberley
Class A – Tyler Malcolm, Falls City; Breanna Jorgensen, Comstock
ALLISON’S FORMER CHAMPS
Some of Allison’s more notable former pole vaulters who won state titles:
Jason Colwick (San Marcos): Won the 5A pole vault in 2006 – then later won NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in 2009 for Rice.
Jessica Doyle (Hays): A two-time state champion, she later earned All-Big 12 first-team indoor honors her senior year at Texas.
Ariana Ince (Gonzales): After winning four Class 3A vault titles in high school, Ince won four Conference USA titles for Rice.
Britni Lawrence (Hays): Another two-time state champion for Hays, Lawrence became the first Texas high school girl to clear both 12 feet and 13 feet.
Bobby Most (Laredo United): Won the state pole vault for United in 2001, then won vault titles at the Texas Relays, the Drake Relays and the Big 12 outdoor championships while at Texas State and Texas Tech.