Vail Christian’s Alexander wins state pole vault
DENVER – Kylie Alexander, Class 1A state pole vaulting champion.
“It sounds really good,” the Vail Christian junior said. “Thanks a lot.”
Alexander became Vail Christian’s first state track and field champion Friday, winning the 1A pole vault Friday with a jump of 8 feet, 7 inches.
And she wasn’t the only Saint reaching the podium. Ashlyn Gruber finished second the 1A state 800 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 24 seconds.
“I don’t know if Kylie had finished pole vault or still was doing it,” Gruber said. “But I could hear her yelling for me from the middle of the (pole-vault) runway.”
Everyone’s timing was thrown off a bit by bad weather down in Denver – most of Thursday’s events, including the 1A pole vault, were moved to Friday – so we give Gruber a pass on the details, but the end result was an emotional and successful day for the Saints.
Alexander becomes the first track and field state champ from Eagle County since the 2008 Battle Mountain boys’ 3,200-meter relay squad of Tony Crisofulli, Connor Tedstrom, Jonny Stevens and John O’Neill. She is only the third Vail Christian athlete to win a state title in any sport – Jessica Linder (Nordic freestyle and classic, 2009) and Ian Hamina (Skimeister, 2010).
She’s the first pole vaulter from Eagle County to strike gold at state since Battle Mountain’s Mark Churchill won the 3A title in 1998.
And that’s where the real fun tie to this story lies. Churchill’s pole vault coach was none other than Charlie Alexander, aka Kylie’s dad. Alexander has been the unofficial pole vault coach of the Western Slope for more than 20 years. Based out of Eagle County, he’s worked with the three local schools who have pole vaulters.
Alexander’s also worked with anyone from Delta to West Grand. If you’ve pole vaulted on this side of the divide, you’ve probably worked with Alexander.
“I’ve coached some state champions, but this one’s pretty special,” Alexander said, adding, “I’m driving, so don’t make me cry.”
The vaulting started at 5 feet – and since Kylie Alexander can jump 4-6 without a pole – she didn’t enter until the bar got to 7-6. Alexander joked that she had been nervous since Thursday, but had settled in Friday morning once the weather allowed the competition to start.
The 1A field got winnowed down quickly, though the 2A competition was happening simultaneously, which was good for Alexander’s comfort factor. This is the first year that 1A has had its own competition, so she knew a lot of kids still in the field for 2A West Grand and other schools.
Alexander and Idalia’s Sydney Weyerman were the only ones in 1A left standing after clearing 8-6. They both failed on their attempts at 9 feet, so they brought the bar down to 8-9. Weyerman missed.
“I know I can get 8-10,” Alexander said. “I get 8-6 usually without any problem. I was just keeping that in my mind and I jumped.”
She cleared it, clinching the state title.
“I was so excited when I got down I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I’ve been smiling since I got over the bar.”
That all but caps a superb year for Alexander – she runs in the 400 relay today with Gruber, Micaela McGuckin, and Alexis Ellsworth. She helped lead Vail Christian volleyball to the state tournament. The Saints are coached none other than by Mom, Cathy Alexander.
She helped Vail Christian girls basketball to its best record ever at 12-8 in the winter and now a state title with her dad as coach.
“It’s funny,” Charlie said. “The coach in you kicks in. When you’re coaching, you don’t think about it. But when your kid looks up at you and smiles, it’s pretty cool.”
Third time a charm
Making the day even more special was that Alexander and Gruber have been pretty much attached at the hips athletically. In the fall, Alexander sets and Gruber knocks the ball down as the outside hitter in volleyball. In the winter, Alexander is a guard. If she shoots and misses, it’s Gruber with the rebound.
So it’s only appropriate that Gruber got a medal on the same day Alexander did. They differ, however, in the experience in their events. Alexander has likely been pole-vaulting since she was in the womb, given her background. Gruber was running the 800 for the third time in her career Friday.
“I still don’t really know how to run the 800,” Gruber said with a laugh. “I try to stick with the lead girl.”
Fleming’s Ashley Atkin pulled away at the end, but it’s pretty safe to say that Gruber will be running the 800 all season next year.
“I don’t think I’ll have an option,” she joked.
Gruber is more of a natural sprinter. She was sixth in the 2A state 400 last year and eighth in the 200, events in which she will compete today, as well as the 400 relay.
“I’ll just take it one event at a time,” Gruber said. “Once you get going, it goes by quick. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Carbajal shines for Devils
Eagle Valley’s Michelle Carbajal is just a freshman, and she got her first taste of state, flying 33 feet, 3 inches in the triple jumple jump.
She didn’t qualify for the finals, but she’ll be back.
“She’s going to be a real treat,” Devils coach Jeff Shroll said. “She had a great year. She’s been great to coach all season.”
Jeremy Sabo had some bad luck in the high jump. With Thursday’s weather postponements, the high jump started at 6 feet, instead of 5-8. That height gives everyone some time to warm up, but not on Friday.
Sabo missed his three attempts at 6 feet.
The Devils will hope for better things as Austin Woodworth competes in the pole vault.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.