Rural Missouri - March 2012 - (Page 22)

Todd Cooper creates champions at his sch Illinois and Nebraska. Missourians have come from Monroe City, Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City in addition to the Kansas City area. t first glance, pole vaulting He’s trained vaulters from beginseems simple: an athlete ners as young as 9 years old to seacarries a long, flexible pole soned veterans, such as 79-year-old down a runway and plants Don Levasy of Kansas City. it into a box embedded in the ground. “Since I came here, I went from The pole bends and the athlete uses about 10 feet to 12 feet in the matter its energy to catapult over the bar. of about a year,” says Emily Brigham Sounds good, but as any vaulter from Kansas City’s Mill Valley High knows, there are a lot of variables that School, one of the prodigies at Just separate a successful jump from failVault. “I love Todd. He is the best ure. The run must be swift. The pole coach. He’s amazing, one of a kind.” must hit the box at just the right time. Her 12-foot, The vaulter must go 6-inch personal best upside down, then is close to the Kansas turn in mid-air and girls vault record, avoid knocking the and Todd believes it’s bar off the standards. not a question of if, Then there’s the fall but when, she will from heights ranging break the mark. from 10 to 20 feet. Adds Tyler May Todd Cooper, 49, from Lee’s Summit knows well how difHigh School, “He’s ficult it can be to made me a 10-timesmaster pole vaulting. better vaulter than As a senior at ExcelI was. I’ve probably sior Springs High gone up a foot in School in 1981, he my jump. Before, I was state champion was lucky to get in in the event and two good jumps in a high school Allone practice. I come American. here and I jump good His success as a every jump, every high school vaulter practice.” led to a scholarTyler has vaulted ship from Baylor 16 feet unofficially, a University, where he Coach Todd Cooper mark that would put won four conference him among the elite championships and of Missouri high school vaulters. was a three-time college All-American. Coach Cooper has lost track of how He competed in two Olympic trials many champions he has produced. and toured Europe as a professional “You could go back to my coaching vaulter, competing with the likes of at Baylor,” he says. “I had a kid who the current world record holder, Serbroke the NCAA record. At one point gey Bubka. He breathed the rarified air at Baylor, I had seven kids over 17 of a world-class athlete, going 18 feet, feet. Three of those kids were over 18 9-1/4 inches at his best. He coached at feet and one jumped 19 and a half. Baylor before returning home. There were probably 20 kids in the These days you can find Todd Coonation jumping over 17 feet, and I per in a Quonset-hut style building. had seven of them at one university.” Here, he operates Just Vault, a school At Excelsior Springs High School, where the next generation of chamhe coached seven state champions, six pion pole vaulters is being created. state champion runners-up and more Todd, who coached at Excelsior than 30 all-state jumpSprings High School, ers. At Just Vault, Coach started the school north Cooper has worked with of town in 1999. more than 200 all-state “I had an idea to Watch a video from Just vaulters including more build an indoor poleVault in the online edition than 25 individual state vaulting facility, which at champions. Numerous seemed kind of silly at others have gone on to the time,” recalls the win conference, district and sectional Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative memchampionships, and two have won ber. “I knew that if we had an indoor collegiate national championships. facility, I could not only help my kids, He’s coached the highest jump for but maybe have some camps and clina high school girl in both Kansas and ics for kids in the surrounding area. Missouri. One of the boys training “I ended up coaching a lot of kids under him had the third-highest jump who competed against my kids and in the nation in 2011. Another had sometimes ended up beating my kids. the nation’s highest jump for a high But honestly, it’s always been about school sophomore. giving back to the sport, because the The coach is used to seeing his stusport has been so good to me.” dents on the champion’s podium. For Six days a week, the building example, Monroe City’s Mike Grinde resounds with the efforts of pole was last year’s Class 2 state champ, vaulters who often travel great disjumping 14 feet, 3 inches. Blair Oaks tances to train under Todd. He’s High School’s Jessica Clark took sectrained vaulters from as far away as A by Jim McCarty Lia Howe from Lee’s Summit goes vertical on her way over the bar at Just Vault, Todd Cooper’s school for pole vaulters. Cooper says the sport got its biggest growth spurt when Missouri began allowing high school girls into the event in 1999 because it favors athletes with a background in gymnastics. He believes there are now more girls than boys competing in the event. “Those girls are fearless,” he says. 22 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2012

Rural Missouri - March 2012
Stickin’ to it
Out of the Way Eats
Spending to save
Just vault
Guarding the honeybee
Hearth and Home
Callaway’s kingdom dinner
News Briefs
Around Missouri
The comical curator

Rural Missouri - March 2012