Pole vault is a family affair

CHULA VISTA — Otay Ranch track coach Ian Cumming had a problem.

He was the most knowledgeable person available to coach the Mustang pole vaulters but he was also the head coach. For safety measures, he simply could not leave the vault competition to coach his distance runners, or hurdlers or anyone else.

Cumming knew he needed an assistant and since American record-holder Stacy Dragila left the program a few years ago, he had a string of aides.

That’s when Randi Cooper suggested she’d like to help.

Cumming was a little reluctant. Although he knew she was qualified technically, there was a potential problem. She was the mother of his best vaulter, Xander Law.

“She said I could say “yes” or “no,” but she said she’d like to coach,” recalls Cumming. “I knew she’d gone to clinics and had the knowledge so she said to give it some thought.”

He did and decided to give it a try. Good call, especially for Law.

A 15-2 vaulter a year ago, he officially cleared 15-10 recently in a dual meet and has soared over 16 feet in practice more than once. No South Bay vaulter has ever gone as high.

At the Escondido Invitational he easily sailed over 15-9 but because there were three competitors remaining, the bar was raised to 16-3 instead of 16-feet. He had two close misses.

“My clearance at 15-9 would have been good at 16,” said the senior who is planning on attending Cuyamaca College in the fall. “I knew I could clear 15-9 because I was mentally positive.”

He thinks he’ll be at 16-4 or better by the end of the year because he has improved his speed and strength.

“The pole vault is the most fun of all the track events, but it’s also the most difficult,” said Law, who was one of several students named Alexander in junior high, so he became Xander and it stuck.

“There are so many things that have to go right—your step, your speed, your position at the crossbar. Maybe that’s why all of the pole vaulters are so friendly. We like to win but we appreciate it when someone else does well and we share poles any time we’re asked.”

As such, Law was one of the first to congratulate Mt. Carmel’s Kyle Pater when he soared 16-3 at Escondido.

“We’re all happy for him,” said Law, “because that’s what sparks competition. You see him do it and you know what you have to work for to beat him, but we’re still happy for each other. Pole vaulting is a mindset, it’s not for everyone. You have to have a little daredevil in you.”

But what about having your mom as a coach?

“It’s definitely a plus,” said the 5-foot-11 Law. “Some coaches have told me something and I just didn’t get it. My mom tells me something and I get it right away. On the field, she’s my coach but at home, she’s my mom.”

Cooper agrees.

“We have an understanding with each other,” she said. “He knows what I want and I don’t have to go into a lot of details or show him like some of the others.”

Cumming sees other things that he likes, not the least of which is she has agreed to stay at Otay Ranch for at least one more year.

“She’s very unbiased toward Xander — she treats everyone the same,” said the veteran coach. “She has helped him learn that when things get tough you have to think positive. It’s working out well.”


Law Vaulter Magazine
Law Vaulter Magazine

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