When Brett Neugebauer and Dan Cashdollar meet up at the pole vaulting pit at a high school track meet, no introduction is needed.
They are two of the WPIAL’s elite in the event, have squared off dozens of times throughout their careers, and compete for schools that are archrivals.
Today, when the pole vaulting competition takes place at the WPIAL Class AAA individual championships at Baldwin, there’s a good chance one of them will be golden.
“I definitely do think it’s going to come down to me and him,” said Neugebauer, a McCandless resident. “There are a couple of other good vaulters, but if you base it off of consistency, we’re definitely one-two going at it for the top position.”
Neugebauer, a senior at North Allegheny, and Cashdollar, a senior at Seneca Valley, have been on a collision course since the season began. The two were expected to excel and both have lived up to the expectations. Each has already cleared 14 feet, 6 inches this season, better than any other pole vaulter in the WPIAL.
You could say Cashdollar has been money this spring. It’s the continuance of a progression that started when Cashdollar, an Evans City resident, gave the event a shot in seventh grade. The sport is a family affair for Cashdollar, whose father, John, is the Seneca Valley pole vaulting coach.
“He was my ride home, so I kind of had to [begin pole vaulting],” Cashdollar joked.
As a junior, Cashdollar placed eighth at the WPIAL championships with a vault of 13-6. He’s now consistently clearing one foot higher. Only one vaulter in Seneca Valley history (2011 graduate Dylan Bilka) has posted a better mark than Cashdollar’s 14-6.
“Dan ranks up there with the best vaulters in Seneca Valley history,” Seneca Valley coach Ray Peaco said. “Last year he hit the heights. This year he has the confidence to step up in the big moments. That’s been the big difference. He’s been real consistent all year long.”
Neugebauer is no stranger to athletic success, and that stretches outside of the vaulting pit. As a member of the North Allegheny football team, Neugebauer won three WPIAL and two PIAA titles over the past three years.
North Allegheny has had some excellent pole vaulters throughout the years — a group that includes 2007 graduate and former WPIAL champion Sean Gil — and Neugebauer is the latest.
“We knew from a real early age that he was going to be a good one,” North Allegheny coach John Neff said. “In the pole vault you have to pay your dues. He didn’t get the spotlight his freshman and sophomore years, but we always knew there was a good vaulter in there. This year we’re very happy for Brett.”
Neugebauer has come a long way since he began vaulting in seventh grade. Like just about every rookie vaulter, Neugebauer struggled early on, but he stuck with it and continued to get better. He made his biggest strides his junior year.
Prior to that, he said he was jumping just over 9 feet. In last year’s WPIAL championships, Neugebauer finished third with a leap of 14 feet.
Neugebauer credited longtime North Allegheny vaulting coach Rob Theissen as playing a large role in his advancement. Theissen is retiring after this season, and Neugebauer wants to give his mentor one more champion vaulter.
“He knows his stuff,” Neugebauer said. “Anybody who goes four years with him is going to get a lot better.”
Cashdollar and Neugebauer have pushed each other to get better. They split a pair of meetings in dual meets, but in the biggest meet of the season to-date — the Baldwin Invitational — Cashdollar placed first and Neugebauer fourth.
They tied for first at last Tuesday’s WPIAL Northern Qualifier meet at Butler.
“I love going to meets with him,” Cashdollar said. “On any day, either one of us can be better. We’re very similar vaulters and both have a very good chance of doing well [today].”