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Takin' it out to The Barn
December 19, 2007 - words and photos by John Nepolitan

With cross country over and the weather slipping south of freezing, life in the Northeast turns to indoor track. This time of year, as words like snow, sleet and wintry mix become commonplace in the weatherman’s vocabulary, teams have to scramble for practice space in school facilities that are many times already stretched to their limits with other activities. When the weather turns sour, distance runners can set out on the roads, hurdlers and sprinters can work out in the school hallways, throwers can hit the weights or throw in a corner of the gym, while the high jumpers grab an opposite corner for a few reps over the bar, but what can the pole vaulters do to get real work in?

Most pole vaulters only have a chance to get on a runway at meets, which have to be used as both practice and competition. But for 90 lucky New York metropolitan-area high school vaulters (both male and female), all members of the Hudson Valley Flying Circus, there’s a chance to log time on the full runway on a regular basis thanks to the warm confines of “The Barn.”

Doing it for the love of the sport

Co-owners and founders of Hudson Valley Flying Circus vault club and “The Vault Barn," Tim St. Lawrence and Hugh Cauthers bring with them a combined 68 years of coaching pole vault at the highest levels, and make that experience available to any and all who wish to make the trip to their unique indoor facility. Working at their current collaborative venture for three years now, St. Lawrence and Cauthers share a love of the event and working with young people. Even though they still coach high school teams, they’re willing to work with vaulters of rival squads in an effort to raise the level of high school pole vaulting across the board.

“In opening The Barn,” they said on a recent trip to their facility, “it was not about making money. We didn’t want to lose money—breaking even was important—but it was about working with young people, creating a culture where young people can improve, and providing a safe, structured training program.”

“The Barn” was just that—a barn with a 25-foot ceiling, before St. Lawrence and Cauthers installed a 120-foot runway, a full Olympic UCS vault pit, a video screen, a selection of over 200 poles and a number of training aids, all geared at providing the best possible training environment covering all angles of improving a vaulter’s performance.
Coach Cauthers assists a club member
Membership has its benefits

For a membership fee of $300 (which includes insurance), a club member has access to “The Barn” and all its extras for a 90-minute training session each week from December 3rd to March 3rd. “The Barn” also hosts a series of competitions and a summer camp, all open to club members.

The philosophy of training at “The Barn” is about developing the entire vaulter, not just providing an open pit for young people to come and jump until they’re out of gas, which would only serve to reinforce bad habits. A typical evening at “The Barn” is divided into three 30-minute sessions: the first 30-minutes is devoted to basic running mechanics, followed by 30 minutes of stiff-pole run-and-plant drills, and finally onto the runway for the final 30 minutes of full vaults, concluding just as the next group is arriving and starting their warm-ups.

A new addition to “The Barn” schedule for 2007 is what St Lawrence has named “"A Day of Vaulting" (for info, go here), which is a symposium and safety clinic for coaches, parents and officials on Friday, December 28, featuring US record-holder Jennifer Stuczynski and her coach, Rick Suhr.

Mother Nature may force coaches in the Northeast to alter their training each day, but if you’re a pole vaulter in the Hudson Valley just north of New York City, taking it out to “The Barn” makes it possible to maintain a normal training schedule and work with others who are looking to elevate the event to new heights.

Coach Tim St. Lawrence (left) shows he's still got it with a manuver on the Vault Machine training device.

More on the Maestros
Coach Tim St. Lawrence
Coach Hugh Cauthers

  • 33+ years of coaching experience at Warwick Valley High School, NY.
  • Member of 3 National USA Teams
  • University of Alabama Record Holder - 17 1/2"
  • Competed at the 1972 Olympic Trials, Eugene, OR
  • New York State champ and record holder - 1967
  • Coached 3 New York State Champions and 5 All-Americans in the Vault!

  • 35+ years of coaching experience at Monroe-Woodbury and Warwick Valley.
  • Founder of Girls' Pole Vault in NY State
  • Coached 23 New York State Champions!
  • Coached Girls' National Champion and National Record Holder Michele Kercado (Monroe, NY)
  • Coached 21 All-Americans in the Vault!!!

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