Many young men aspire to follow in their father’s footsteps — whether he is a doctor, engineer, teacher or coach.
Tommy Dial also wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. But his dad, Joe Dial, has set the bar high — literally.
Joe was the world record holder in the pole vault in 1986 and was the American record holder for nine years from 1985-1994. Joe’s highest career vault was 19 feet, 6.5 inches.
Tommy, a Jenks High School senior ranked among the top high school vaulters nationally, is well on his way to possibly topping his father’s accomplishments.
Like so many great athletes, Tommy got his start at a young age.
“I’ve always been interested in pole vaulting,” he says. “I’ve seen pictures of me in diapers with a broomstick trying to vault over the couch.”
With his father as his coach and mentor, Tommy — a multi-sport athlete — decided to focus solely on vaulting after his sophomore year.
His rapid progression in the event is evident in his results at the state high school track meet. As a freshman, he placed sixth (14 feet); his sophomore year, he placed second (16 feet, 6 inches); and last year as a junior, he was the Class 6A state champion with a vault of 17 feet, 1 inch.
Joe, who is the head track coach at Oral Roberts University, says coaching his son has been a lot of fun.
“I like coaching other athletes, of course, but it’s special to coach your son and see him succeed,” he says. “My dad coached me when I got started, so it’s fun to now coach my son.”
A little déjà vu: Joe set the high school meet record at the prestigious Kansas Relays in 1980 with a vault of 17 feet, 5 inches (and became the first high school athlete to be named the Kansas Relays Outstanding Athlete as a result).
At last spring’s Kansas Relays, it was Tommy who won the high school division by clearing 17 feet, 1.5 inches.
He then had the bar set at 17-5 in an attempt to tie his father’s record.
“He came really close but didn’t quite make it,” Joe says. “This year, if the weather is good, he’ll get another shot.”
Tommy has competed at many big meets, including the Reno Pole Vault Summit, which draws the country’s top vaulters. He also received an invitation to compete in the Millrose Games in New York City in February.
After being recruited by many top universities, Tommy committed to ORU and looks forward to improving his vaulting skills under his father’s tutelage.
“I think being coached by my dad, one of the best in the world, will help me fulfill my goals,” Tommy says.
One of those goals is to someday compete in the Olympics.
According to the young athlete, “2016 is probably too close, but I definitely feel that if I can keep improving, that I have a shot in 2020.”
In any case, Tommy would like to continue vaulting after college.
Professional track and field can be a lucrative profession in Europe, where interest in the sport is more intense than in the U.S. Tommy would like to emulate his father, who competed on the European circuit in the ’80s and early ’90s.
“I would love to travel and make my living by pole vaulting,” he says.
Tommy Dial’s highlights
Oklahoma Class 6A;
placed sixth as a freshman
Oklahoma Class 6A;
placed second as a sophomore
Kansas Relays pole vault championship;
17 feet, 1.5 inches
Oklahoma Class 6A State Champion (junior);
17 feet, 1 inch
Mile Split All-American;
named one of the eight best U.S. high school vaulters
Great Southwest Meet; Albuquerque, New Mexico;
National Scholastic Athletics Foundation;
fifth-ranked U.S. high school vaulter