Saints reign supreme at state pole vault
DENVER — It’s a rule — Vail Christian does pole vault.
Cooper Daniels repeated as the 2A state pole-vault champion and Taylor Alexander returned to her throne with her third state crown in four years on Friday at the state track and field meet in Denver.
And that made for a grand finale for the school’s vaulting coach, Charlie Alexander, who is retiring from the sport with this meet.
Daniels is the fifth Vail Christian male athlete in a row to win a state title. Gunnar Wilson took it in 2012, Mack Cooper in 2013, Nick Boyne, who was third on Friday, in 2014 and Daniels the past two seasons.
And, of course, the Alexanders have owned it on the girls’ side — Kylie (2011 and 2012) and Taylor (2013, 2014 and 2016).
“I don’t think I could ask to go out in any better way,” Charlie said. “I feel like a rock star, walking around the meet getting congratulations from a lot of buddies here on the Front Range. It’s an awesome feeling. Spuddie (Taylor) is obviously mine, but they’re our boys too.”
Back to back
Daniels was the defending champions, but he had a quad injury going into the competition on Friday and hadn’t jumped in three weeks.
“This morning I was a little nervous,” he said. “I was wondering how my leg would hold up. After warm-up, I was feeling good and ready to jump.”
Daniels came into the meet at 13 feet, 8 inches — a little lower than normal. He cleared that height in his first attempt, and was on his way.
Daniels had the fourth-highest mark (15-3) in the state this season, regardless of classification at Valor Christian’s Meet of Champions earlier this month, and was the favorite. He clinched the meet title when Yuma’s Brandon Hinkle went no higher than 15-3.
The next stop was the 2A state-meet record of 14-9, which Daniels eclipsed at 15-2. That mark had stood since 1984.
“He really did have a break out king of year,” coach Alexander said. “He worked during the winter. Cooper was in the weight room, and you could see it in his strength. He’s always been pretty flighty and then he got stronger.”
Daniels and Boyne are good friends, so being on the podium made sense. Boyne achieved a personal-best, at 14-2, and earned a bronze medal.
That header could apply to Taylor Alexander regaining her state crown after missing her junior year with a shoulder injury. That also could refer to Taylor’s older sister, Kylie, surprising her on Friday by flying in from Southern California for the meet.
Either way, four state titles were present, and Taylor added a fifth for the Alexander family.
Alexander won the meet with an 12-4, which is a 2A state-meet record. Taylor now holds both the 1A and 2A marks, the 1A mark having been previously held by Kylie. (The Vail Daily is working on a flow chart for this.)
Taylor has gone as high as 12-8, but nursing another injury — a hamstring, as opposed to both of her shoulders, which she’s injured since sophomore-year title — she was not at full strength.
“We think it’s a hamstring or tendinitis. We really don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to the doctors and have them say I couldn’t compete. I wasn’t going to listen.”
All joking aside, Alexander has reveled in being relatively healthy in both volleyball and the pole vault during her senior year.
She entered at 11-2 and missed her first attempt. She went to a longer pole, against her dad’s/coach’s advice, and made the height.
“She out-coached me again,” Charlie joked.
And with her nearest competitor at 10-2, state crown No. 3 was in the bag.
Well done, Coach
For Charlie, as well, this was his finale state meet. Alexander has coached pole vaulters all around the Western Slope. Like his better half, Cathy, who’s coached volleyball for 25 years locally, he is stepping aside this spring.
“Honestly, it means the world to me to have him as a coach,” Taylor said. “At home, it’s father-daughter time. When we go to the track , it’s athlete-coach. It’s definitely been a ride with ups and downs. My dad’s a big part of my success. He does a lot for everyone.”
“He’s been a huge influence on me,” Daniels said. “He somehow convinced me to do it and he’s made it fun to vault. I’ve improved so much because of him.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.