Merritt Island pole vaulter Dylan Peterson participates in District 13-3A meet
Dylan Peterson of Merritt Island won the 3A pole vault title last year and the vaults here in District 13-3A meet at Sebastian River, coached by Mike Vani.
Brian McCallum, Florida Today
Strolling through the Sebastian River High pole vault area while coaching Merritt Island senior Dylan Peterson at the District 13-3A track and field meet two weeks ago, Mike Vani made a “walk in the past”.
It was the same pole vault pit where Vani, then a short-haired, clean-shaven Mustangs senior, first cleared 16ft in 2009, weeks before the historic leap he performed in of the State Meet in Winter Park.
Today, Vani’s hair is close to her shoulders and frames a handlebar mustache. Otherwise, the biggest difference between the 2009 Vani and Peterson last month is that Peterson, a Merritt Island senior, already had a state championship in the event.
Peterson was the ninth for Brevard County since Vani won with what was then the best successful jump in FHSAA competition: 16 feet, 8 inches.
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Peterson will compete in a regional meet in Miami on Friday with a trip to the Class 3A state meet on the line. Also competing are two outfielders Vani sees as his senior’s biggest challengers for another championship.
Peterson’s regional meet mark of 14 feet, 1 1/2 inches came on a day when he and his coach planned to “just survive and move on,” according to Vani. But it was a victory by more than a foot, and Vani is optimistic about Peterson’s chances of securing another state victory.
“It was his best technical pole vault day since the first meeting of the season. He’s in a perfect place to defend his state championship.”
Vani “had a fearlessness in him”
Technical pole vaulting was more than Vani was doing in 2008 when he added the event to a basketball-dominated sports life. At the time, his competitive goal was to “grab the end of the post, hang on to it, and land in the pit”.
Vani started using a VHS tape on how to jump, and he searched for internet videos on a new website called Youtube. In the 2008 state meet, he was within yards when Riley Egan of St. Thomas d’Aquin set a 17-6 record.
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That day, Vani told coach Bobby Haeck that he was going to do it next year.
“He said, ‘OK, whatever you say, mate,'” Vani recalled.
Haeck, himself a former state champion who had set a previous FHSAA mark of 15-5 in 1987 and then competed for Florida State, took over Vani’s coaching and introduced the highly technical aspects that would make of his pupil a record holder.
“He opened the door to my pole vault career and gave me a quick kick through the door,” Vani said.
The following year, with full-time guidance from Haeck, Vani surged 15-7 in the second meeting of the 2009 season. he qualified for the 3A State Championship at Winter Park on May 8.
Yet the “stars aligned”. He first cleared 16-1 to set a new personal best and eventually pushed it over half a foot higher to 16-8, setting the state record that was held until a while ago. three years.
It wasn’t exactly a moment Mustangs head athletics coach Pat Campbell anticipated when he picked Vani for the event, but it wasn’t completely out of his vision.
“He was a very competitive person,” Campbell recalled of the tall, lean basketball player. “He wanted to be a champion. He had a fearlessness in him.”
Having decided that hurdles and pole vault were two events where there were openings for young athletes to succeed in the county, Campbell brought the next piece to the formula, Haeck, who he already knew from the State of Florida.
“He was the guy who coached the guy who held the state record,” Campbell said. “Bobby can see things without video that other people need video for.”
Haeck, through his business Pole Vault City, began coaching athletes in the region and even beyond, bringing them to a hidden warehouse in Suntree where Vani has now joined him to teach young athletes from various teams.
And it paid off, especially locally. His coaching is widely credited by Campbell, Vani and Merritt Island athletic director Jeff McLean for the surge in Brevard’s pole vault success.
From the start of the FHSAA pole vault competition in 1915, through 1983, Satellite, Astronaut and Melbourne high schools combined for four boys’ state championships in the event, all after 1977. Astronaut has added another boys’ title in 2000 and the region’s first by a girl (Sara Reaves of Astronaut) in 2002, but that was it until Vani.
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Since Vani’s jumping record, sector jumpers have won nine state titles, three of them by girls.
It was Holy Trinity’s Lindsey Enders who won back-to-back women’s titles in 2010 and 2011, her second setting a women’s competitive record of 12ft 10in that stood until 2015 when Ransom Everglades’ Nati Sheppard cleared 13 -3.
Prior to Peterson’s win last year, Merritt Island’s Shelton McLean won Class 2A in 2012, and Satellite’s Noah Mumme won back-to-back victories from 2016-18.
It was the year Stone Baker of River Ridge High in New Port Richey broke the Vani State competitive mark by a quarter of an inch. With his own high school career now over a decade behind him, one of Vani’s next big thrills would be an athlete he coached to elevate that mark even further.
He and Haeck coached Nick Molloy from Naples Community School, and Molloy won the 1A title last year with a 15-5 mark. Vani expects the now senior to “leave no doubt” by topping 17 feet this year.
And there’s Peterson, who admitted he tried the sport – “the coach asked if anyone wanted to try it, and I said, ‘sure, why not'” – to get out of distance running. He could compete for Brevard’s 10th title in 14 years on May 13 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Vani has promising jump predictions for Brevard, due to the availability of a variety of poles, Suntree’s enclosed facility and its track, built by Haeck.
“It’s a perfect setup for high school,” he said. “There’s no reason Brevard County shouldn’t have a state champion every year.”
Scroll through the photo gallery for a list of Brevard County State Pole Vault Champions
Brevard County FHSAA Pole Vault Champions
1978 – Steve Austin, Satellite (Class 4A), 14-6
1979 – Mike Jasczsak, Astronaut (3A), 13-0
1981 – Kenneth Bookhart, Satellite (4A), 15-0
1983 – Karl Kihlander, Melbourne (3A), 14-6
2000 – Tyson Leider, Astronaut (2A), 14-0
2002 – Sara Reaves, Astronaut (3A), 11-6
2009 – Mike Vani, Merritt Island (2A), 16-8*
2010 – Lindsey Enders, Holy Trinity (1A), 12-0
2011 – Lindsey Enders, Holy Trinity (1A), 12-10*
2012 – Shelton McLean, Merritt Island (2A), 14-0
2016 – Noah Mumme, Satellite (2A), 14-6
2017 – Noah Mumme, Satellite (2A), 15-4 1/4
Abigail Olson, Merritt Island (3A), 11-5 3/4
2018 – Noah Mumme, Satellite (2A), 15-9
2021 – Dylan Peterson, Merritt Island (3A), 14-3 1/4
* State record established