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Vaulters helping St. Mary's soar in track

Midway through the 2006 track and field season, Dr. Dave Igelman approached St. Mary's coach Joe Volk with a question.

The local dermatologist just wanted to know why the Crusaders didn't have any kids trying the pole vault, and the reply from Volk was simple: We don't have anyone qualified to coach it.

Igelman wasn't quite sure how he would do as a teacher of the unique event, but he figured he'd offer up his services. During his high school days, Igelman was able to clear 14 feet, 5 inches in 1978 and went on to compete in the event at the Air Force Academy.

In the time since, the marriage of Igelman as a coach and the pole vault as a viable event for tracksters at St. Mary's has been a successful union for the Crusaders.

In his first full season with St. Mary's, Igelman helped qualify two pole vaulters to the Class 2A state meet in 2007, with Chase Farthing placing third overall with a mark of 12-9.

This year, Farthing and Sean Igelman have qualified for state in the pole vault, with the Crusaders sending nine boys and 10 girls overall to the 2A championships at Western Oregon University. Sean Igelman, a sophomore, edged his teammate for the district title last Saturday after both cleared 13-0 but Farthing had more misses at a lower height to settle the tie.

"They're doing quite well," says coach Igelman. "I'm really proud of them."

Farthing, a senior, actually owns the top 2A mark in the state after clearing 13-6 at the Grants Pass Rotary Classic, while Igelman's 13-0 mark has him tied for second overall with Portland Christian junior David Nuttelman.

Farthing's height also places him second in the record book at St. Mary's, trailing only the 14-4 mark put up by Dorian Corliss in 1968.

"It's been kind of a neat deal," Volk says of the pole vaulting presence at St. Mary's these days. "The enthusiasm for vaulting has really increased."

As if that weren't enough, senior Lars Bowlin has the fourth-best boys 2A height at 11-6, and the Crusaders also boast a top-five girls talent in sophomore Danielle Shubat, who took second at district at 7-6.

"We're one of only a few teams that actually has girl vaulters to begin with," Volk says of the 2A field, "but to have three vaulters score points at meets is pretty phenomenal."

Volk says he remains hands-off when it comes to the pole vault, leaving it all up to the elder Igelman.

Dave Igelman says his first act in taking over midway through the 2006 campaign was to get more appropriate poles for the vaulters and modify the pit to address safety standards. After that, things really began to click.

"That first year really set the groundwork so that the next two years we've been able to go 100 percent now," says the coach.

Igelman says the most important thing to consider about pole vaulting is how many aspects are required simply to pull off one attempt.

"It's a series of events, you can't just do one thing," the coach says. "Carrying the pole and being able to comfortably run with it is important. Learning how to plant the pole in the right position so you can swing up and then learning how to kick up and turn ... all of that has to go together."

The complexity and unique quality of the event was actually the driving force behind why Farthing and the younger Igelman took up vaulting.

"It's one of the more fun sports I've ever done," says Farthing, 18. "It's not just running on the track or throwing things, it uses a lot of technique and skill. You have to be fast and strong to be able to do it."

The 5-foot-11, 145-pound Farthing says his background in gymnastics during his elementary and high school days have helped him become a better vaulter, and Dave Igelman agrees.

"If you've ever seen him vault, it's almost like a gymnast running down and doing the vault off the pommel horse," says the coach. "It's truly an acrobatic feat and he's quite good at it. His extension is just outstanding."

For Sean Igelman, the fact that he's able to use a 13-foot pole with the capacity of hurling a 155 pounder helps his cause. Igelman stands only 5-5 and 125 pounds, often leaving him along for the ride once the pole recoils.

Both vaulters also strive to learn from one another in order to take their vaulting to the next level.

"We usually help each other out, get our steps from one another and see where we should plant .. things like that," says the 15-year-old Igelman. "(Farthing's) a little better than I am so I get to watch him and he just kinda shows me how to extend a little better."

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E.J. SINGLER'S TRIP to Arizona proved to be an enjoyable one, with the South Medford High junior leading Team Jones in scoring and rebounding at the Arizona Cactus Classic AAU basketball tournament in Tucson, Ariz.

Team Jones went 4-0 in pool play but fell to eventual runner-up Compton (Calif.) Magic 73-56 in bracket play during its fourth game on Saturday.

Singler flew out of Medford on Friday afternoon and fared well out of the gate later that night in Team Jones' opening test. The 6-foot-6 standout had a team-high 15 points and six rebounds to go with three assists, two steals and one block in a 68-44 victory over the NorCal Pharaohs.

Saturday morning saw Team Jones crush the REACH Legends 71-39, with Singler amassing nine points, three rebounds and two blocked shots.

In the second test Saturday, Team Jones topped the Texas D-1 Ambassadors 74-61 as Singler shared team-high honors in scoring with 14 points to go with a team-best eight rebounds.

Team Jones completed pool play with a 58-52 win over Utah Pump N' Run in its third game Saturday, with Singler posting his best effort of the tournament with team highs in points (24) and rebounds (13) to go with one assist and one steal.

In the fourth and final game Saturday, Singler managed six points, a team-high five rebounds and two assists in a 73-56 loss to Compton Magic, which went on to lose 70-67 in Sunday's championship to Houston Hoops.

Singler capped the event ranked third in field goal percentage at 64.4 percent (29-for-45), including a 3-for-8 showing from 3-point range. The small forward's 35 rebounds were good for 15th on the all-tourney rankings.