Two years ago, Masuk High junior Tyler John decided to try pole vault with a friend on an impulse. Two weeks ago, John made his mark as the best in the state with a vault of 13 feet and 6 inches at the Indoor Track State Open.
The meteoric rise comes as a bit of a surprise to even Tyler, but the achievement does not come as a shock to him or his coaches.
“Winning the state open felt right because I worked so hard at this,” John said. “People said I had a lot of potential and I really wanted to make that come true, so I worked endless hours at my form, strength and speed training and it really all paid off.”
Masuk High Indoor Track coach Ed Butler saw the championship potential in John during his freshman year. Butler knew he was dealing with a dedicated athlete when he took John and a handful of fellow freshman and sophomore volunteers to Weston High's indoor pole vault. Practically all of those who tried the event faded away except for John. Over the years, John showed Butler that he has a characteristic that is special to champions.
“He has an amazing learning capability,” Butler said. “He synthesizes instructions, ideas and coaching very quickly. He can translate it quickly into his actions. Most kids need repetitive opportunities, but Tyler can catch on right away because he is very bright and dedicated.”
In John, that quick learning ability is paired with a hunger to learn. In addition to training with Tim Drummond in Weston, John trains with pole vault guru Scott Williams and New Fairfield High Indoor Track coach Tim Murphy at a facility in Brookfield. He also enrolled in clinics run by the college pole vaulters and coaches at Princeton University and a clinic in New York run by Olympic bronze medalist Dave Johnson.
The hard work lifted John to the top of his field during his sophomore year. He qualified for the state tournament during his second indoor season and grabbed a Class L state title in pole vaulting in outdoor track that spring. John marks winning the state title as the moment when he knew he wanted to pursue pole vaulting to its fullest.
“It was my first taste of an actual state victory. When I got that, it was what really hooked me onto it,” he said. “That is when I knew I could win and when I knew I could win the open at the indoor season.”
John was undefeated at pole vault this indoor track season except for a second-place finish at the Yale Classic indoor track invitational. He took first place at the Class L state tournament on Feb. 11 with a vault of 12.6 and saved his best vault ever for the open on Feb. 19.
“That was one of the happiest moments of my life,” he said of the vault. “Everything came together. Everything that I worked for in this entire sport came together right there and then. It was like a miracle. It was an astounding feeling. I can't even describe it. It was just great.”
John now turns his attention to the outdoor track season with a goal of a high finish at the New England Championships and qualifying for the Nike Outdoor Nationals.
“I'm hoping to qualify for Nationals and get at least 15-feet, but I'm aiming for a much higher height this season,” he said. “I want to get new poles and I'm going to train much harder. I am going to see where it goes from there.”
No matter how far he goes, there will be at least one person who won't be surprised if he makes it to the top.
“He's on fire,” Butler said. “I have always said that one of the keys to being good in any athletic area is to become a student of the event and John is. He studies it, he watched videos, he knows everybody who's competing. It is a lot of fun to coach a kid like that not just because he is successful, but because he is so focused.”