Cougars’ vaunted vault coach

El Dorado pole vault coach John Simpson has been around long enough that this past season he coached a second generation Johnson when Cougar senior Matt went after his dad’s school record.

Matt, along with Sam McCrea and Cambron Lyles, formed a formidable trio this past season that carried the Cougar boys vault team to the league and Divisional titles and into last week’s Masters Meet in Elk Grove.

“All three had a great season and all three are on the board (top 5) at the school,” Simpson said. “Matt’s very competitive. With Sam and Cambron coming on he tried harder and turned it up a notch but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done at Masters.”

Head track and field coach Peanut Harms calls Simpson an “unsung hero” for his “undying passion and enthusiasm for the kids.”

“He’s the reason we have vaulting,” Harms said. “He’ll coach anyone — it doesn’t matter if you’re new and just trying to clear six feet or someone who can make 15.”

Simpson jumped in college at West Valley JC and then a year at San Jose State before ending up with the Chico State Track Club. The Pollock Pines’ resident started coaching at El Dorado in 1988, left due to a job transfer, returned to coach for six years at Union Mine when that school opened up and is now back at El Dorado.

“I enjoy coming back (coaching each season) and seeing the kids improve,” said Simpson of a sport that sees significant improvement in beginners but one in which the inches “come slower” the more advanced and experienced one becomes.

“It’s challenging and you have to be self-motivated … that’s what I like about it,” he added.

Over the years, Simpson has seen his share of athletes unable to master the sport.

“You can’t be fearful. There’s guys that have the ability but just can’t do it,” Simpson said. “Vaulting is a difficult event .. it takes a lot of repetition, a lot of drill work, speed and upper body strength.

The Cougars had 12 kids out for the vault team last spring with the breakdown split between boys and girls. Lyles will return and Simpson sees some younger talent that can step up.

While at the Masters, Simpson had a chance to watch Ponderosa vaulter Kylee Trageser win the whole thing.

“She’s the real deal and as good as it gets,” he said. “She brings it up the runway, takes off hard and gets vertical on the top of the pole. And … she’s well coached.”


Simpson Vaulter Magazine
Simpson Vaulter Magazine

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