July 9, 2009
Pole Vault - Rising Above: Fogel turning Griffins into Class 4 pole vault power
By Bill Knust, Sun Tribune
It takes more than five years to cement yourself as a dynasty, but the Winnetonka High pole vault program is building a solid foundation. The Griffins have had a state medalist on either the boys or girls side - sometimes both - for the past five years at the Class 4 Missouri State Track and Field Championships.
"When we walk into a meet people know who we are," 2009 state medalist Samee Schramm said. "It is nice."
Among the different athletes who have walked away with state medals and state championships there has been one common variable - coach Jeff Fogel.
A three-time Arizona high school state champion and three-time Division II all-American at Northwest Missouri State as a decathlete, Fogel got an early start in track.
"In Arizona, club track teams are like QuikTrips," Fogel said. "There is one on every corner. Literally every high school has its own track team. My dad got me started at age seven. I didn't start actually vaulting until I was 12 or 13. I was an OK vaulter, but I wasn't anything special. Sixteen-four was the highest I ever went. … I loved the event. It has always been my favorite. I was fortunate enough to have a good junior college coach (George Davies). He was the former world-record holder on steel poles."
Fogel enjoyed his time as a Bearcat, saying the experience led him to where he is today.
"I loved it. I wish I would have applied myself more," Fogel said. "I am sure every kid who had the potential does. What happened there happened for a reason though. I am here now. I met my wife. I think it worked out the way it was supposed to work out."
The Winnetonka coach said a tip he received from former Griffins wrestling coach Glenn Rosario has helped pave the way for the string of success the program has reeled off.
"Glen Rosario, who used to coach wrestling here and really took it to the next level, told me early on that kids have to understand this is what we do here, and if you can't be part of this we have to let you go and find somebody else," Fogel said.
That means there is also a strict selection process to be a vaulter at Winnetonka.
"We do have to let kids go after their freshman year," Fogel said. "We do go through a tryout phase. I know there are certain schools - I think Ray-Pec has 27 vaulters - with a lot of vaulters, and I tried that early, but it just wasn't for us. I can't be in two places at once, and this is a sport where I need to have eyes on each kid.
"We keep our group between four and eight between both freshman and varsity. That has helped a lot because we can tune in on what kids need. It allows us to read them as coaches and help us determine if they can be successful."
Those four to eight vaulters fortunate enough to work with Fogel have nothing but good things to say about him.
"He is more than a coach to us, he becomes like another dad," Schramm said. "He is a role model for us. He just really brings us all together. If it weren't for him we would all be not as talented, skilled and knowledgeable as we are. He just really brings us all together and encourages us all."
Former Griffin all-stater Nichole Manning said Fogel will go to whatever length needed to help an athlete be as good as he or she wants.
"He just does everything he can, and he gets so much exposure to different kinds of coaches," Manning said. "Coaches that are really high up there. We went to Reno, Nevada, every year in high school for a pole vaulting summit. It had tons of Olympic athletes and collegiate athletes and elite athletes. All of their coaches are there, so you get to talk with them. As much as you want to put into vaulting, he will put that right back into you. He will go practice with you. He will drill with you. He will go above and beyond. That helps a lot."
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