In coaching circles, the cliché regarding exceptional athletes is, “This kind of athlete does not come along very often.” For the Red Mountain High School Girls’ Track Team, the saying would be, “These kinds of athletes do not come along very often together.” Enter seniors Tayler Jameson, Abbie Sharkey, and Kristiana Warth, a trio of pole vaulters who have been competing at the highest levels in the state for several years. With all three clearing 12 feet in the indoor season, the girls are in rare company in terms of the number of athletes over a mark for a season at one school.
Much of the credit is of course due to their dedication to their discipline, but they’ve had help along the way from current pole vault coaches Cara Manis and Blair Howland as well as elite vaulters Dean and Jill Starkey. Combined with an early start in vaulting years ago, the results thus far in their careers is quite noticeable. “All of our coaches have done a great job pushing us to big meets,” says Warth. “It has been great having all three of us at those meets to push each other and make sure that we support each other on our best and worst days.”
What is more amazing is their ability not only to push and support each other on the track, but also in the classroom. With GPA’s of 3.64, 3.952, and 4.729, and class ranks of 163, 90, and 6, Warth, Jameson and Sharkey, respectively, each lady has opened opportunities to progress to college and be successful. “My commitment to track gives me less time for homework, but it forces me to make good decisions about the time I dedicate to homework,” says Sharkey. “It also makes me more focused when I’m doing homework because I know I need to get it done correctly the first time.”
But in all their time at Red Mountain there have been ups and downs for sure in each of their careers. Jameson suffered a stress fracture in her foot her Sophomore year, Warth spent much of her Junior year fighting a quad injury, and Sharkey had a lingering ankle and elbow injury that hampered her results at times. However, as their head coach, Brent Krieg, says, “They have remained positive, upbeat, and always dedicated to the process of improving, learning, and working hard for their goals. They have unconditional support for each other and lead our team both on and off the track.”
With the end of the season looming, results are definitely important. However, the ladies remain confident in their bond as athletes. “It helps when we travel to big meets like Arcadia, the Chandler Rotary, and State because we have teammates who are competing right next to each other and we know we have each other’s back,” said Jameson. This is the atmosphere that Red Mountain coaches have instilled since taking over the program. “Our athletes are expected to be supportive of their teammates no matter the event in which they compete. The culture we’ve created in the past couple of years is partly a by-product of these pole vaulters’ willingness to compete against each other while at the same time hoping that each of them does better every meet.”
The question will remain whether the formula works by the end of their high school careers, but for the trio of vaulters their grades, training, and competition has led them to several options for the future. Yet, their biggest impact has been to help create a team of athletes who care for each other, work hard, and cherish the success based on process. Truly, “These kinds of athletes do not come along very often together.”
Brent Krieg is the Red Mountain High School girls track and field coach.