Jeff Opelt’s Fremont Ross track record of 14 feet, 2 inches in the pole vault has stood for 40 years.
But on Tuesday, Opelt’s mark came under fire as Ross junior Jalen Oman cleared a winning mark of 13-6 before making three attempts at 14-3 during a home meet with Eastwood and Woodmore. Oman came close each time but kept clipping the bar.
Ross finished second to Eastwood in both the boys and girls meets.
“I wasn’t dropping my shoulders back and finishing my vault,” said Oman, whose previous best height was 13 feet. “I can definitely get higher. I know what I’m doing, it’s just hard to make a change right away.”
Vaulting has always been a niche sport for the Little Giants’ program. Ellen Silva — who currently vaults at the University of Toledo — placed fourth for Ross at the Division I state meet in 2011. Behind her, bad vaulters have been few and far between.
Enter 1999 Ross graduate Pryde Yost.
After spending a few years away from the program to coach pole vault at the University of Toledo, he’s back as a volunteer coach and has taken the Little Giants’ vaulters to a new level.
“Our girls have just done so great this year and a lot of that has to do with Pryde’s coaching,” Ross girls coach Travis Bates said.
Amber Otermat won the pole vault for the girls at 10 feet, just beating out teammate Abbi Hasselbach.
“I knew we had good vaulters,” Yost said. “The season is looking really, really good. For the most part, we’re doing short runs still. Jalen (Oman) did some long runs today, as did Abbi (Hasselbach), but for the most part, everyone else is still doing short runs. We’ll be contenders as the month goes along.”
Yost has been coaching a majority of his pole vaulters in club vaulting throughout the winter at Shawn Beamer’s Altitude Headquarters in Bellevue.
“It’s a knowledge sport,” said Yost, who was a standout swimmer at Ross and the University of Findlay. “Putting time in is important. We’ve been lucky to have a lot of time to work even with the weather being the way it’s been. I even take these guys into the pool sometimes, and we do workouts in the pool or up on the balcony.”
Yost did track in seventh, eighth and ninth grade, then switched to baseball in the spring. He came back to track eight years later at Findlay.
“I noticed they didn’t have any vaulters at Findlay while I was there on swim scholarship,” Yost said. “I said, ‘hey, I think I can still do this,’ That first year I got eighth at the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) Championships, and that one point got us second place overall. Since then, I’ve stuck with it. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Yost’s athletes enjoy having him around, too.
“We’re all doing a lot better this year,” Oman said. “Having coach Yost has been great and being able to go over to Bellevue on Sundays and vault with him after a meet has been a huge help.”
Tuesday was mostly a workout day for the three competing schools as athletes ran many events they normally wouldn’t compete in.
Stefan Johnson won the 110 hurdles (15.82) for the Ross boys, while Jeffrey Barnett won the long jump (19-7) and Louis Guardiola won the 3,200 (9:58.40). The Little Giants’ 4×200 relay also was first.
Malachi Brown won the 200 dash (24.15) for Woodmore.
“It’s our last Tuesday night meet, so I kind of let our athletes do what they wanted to do just for fun,” Wildcats coach Brian Ryman said.
McKenna Willis won the 100 hurdles (17.73) for the Ross girls. Meghan Moses won the high jump (4-8), Derae James the 100 (14.13), Cassie Woleslagel the 300 hurdles (48.40) and Dejsha Pettiford the long jump (14-0). The Little Giants added wins in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.
Lily Rothert was the lone winner for the Woodmore girls, taking first in the 400 (1:04.57).