Dozens of local athletes’ names are inscribed on the aluminum, each with a number indicating the peak height they cleared.
At the top is Stevensville’s Jason Wurster, a national pole vault champion.
Joel Mueller is closing the gap.
The 15-year-old Ridgeway-Crystal Beach student is coming off his second OFSAA pole vault gold medal and has made great gains in a sport he only started three years ago.
“Older kids than me have stayed the same throughout high school, but I didn’t think I would advance this fast,” Mueller said Wednesday during a break in practice. “I think it’s mostly because I try my hardest. Some kids, they come a couple times a month and don’t really try. They do it to miss some school. I’m trying to do my best and make it somewhere.”
That would be a scholarship and, if everything aligns, the Olympics. And none of it would be possible without Krupa.
The 63-year-old has been coaching Niagara athletes at his Stevensville property since 1980.
Most are from high schools. This year, Krupa sent 17 pole vaulters to OFSAA.
None compare to Mueller, who jumped a personal best 4.20 metres to win junior boys’ gold last week.
“There’s very little to tell him,” Krupa said. “He’s gotta work on his running and get faster, but all of them need to get faster in high school. There’s very little change. He just does it. Some kids, you tell them and it takes them 10 years to do it.”
It was only a year ago when Mueller, in his first year of high school, set the Zone 3, SOSSA and OFSAA records. His leap of 3.75m set the provincial midget standard and was a personal best.
Mueller spends six hours a week working with Krupa, whose backyard has four crash mats that sit on old tires. Part of the runway is a conveyer belt. Jumpers try to clear a string attached to two bars at each side of the mats.
“He just gets it,” Krupa said. “He’s just a natural, strong, and he gets it. He just bends that pole and goes for a ride. In 60 years I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Mueller attempted to beat the junior boys’ OFSAA record of 4.45m but didn’t have a long enough pole to help launch his five-foot-nine, 150-pound frame.
It’s a height he’s likely to shatter next season in senior. If he does, Mueller will have to change his number on the garage.
“It’s another world,” Krupa said. “For a 15 year old, jumping 14 feet, some kids get a little bit scared, but he aint scared.”
Joel MuellerAge: 15
School: Ridgeway-Crystal Beach
Weight: 150 pounds
Personal best: 4.20 metres (OFSAA junior boys’ gold medallist)