SRHS pole vaulters include (from left) Olivia Mann, Jun Melchior, Ruby Melchior, Faith Heffron and coach Alan Mann. (photo by Robin Melchior)Â
Pole vault team is over the top
Track and field is a sport that hosts a diverse range of events, including distance, sprints, hurdles and throws. Among the most physically demanding of these events – and most dangerous – is pole vaulting.
Led by coach Alan Mann, the team at Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) has achieved unprecedented success and continues to improve each year as Mann pushes the vaulters to new heights.
Mann – who has lived and worked in Scripps Ranch since 1977 – began as a pole vaulter himself, becoming a junior college All American and then going on to become the top vaulter at the University of Arizona. From there, he began vaulting for the Southern California Striders, where he trained for the Olympic Trials – and even coached for the University of Arizona before moving to San Diego.
Mann’s son, Drew, became interested in pole vaulting when he got to Scripps Ranch High, and, out of support, Mann “built [his] own pole vault facility in [his] backyard for Drew to practice.”
These efforts were not in vain, as Drew, taking after his father, became one of the best vaulters to ever come through SRHS. Breaking the school record 23 times in his final two seasons, Drew raised the record from 12 feet to 15 feet, 4 inches, a record that still stands today. Alan Mann became the pole vault coach at the school in 2003, for the four years that Drew was there, only to come back in 2018 to coach when his daughter, Olivia, decided she, too, wanted to pole vault.
“Coaching at SRHS has been no noble sacrifice on my part, since I have always loved vaulting,” Mann said, adding that he gets “great satisfaction and inspiration from working with the outstanding young people who show up to pole vault.”
Furthermore, this year’s vaulters were among SRHS’s best, as they “did a great job of showing up and improving, continually pushing themselves to get better.”
Mann explained, “Practice usually involved quite a bit of laughter and joking around … the casual nature of practice is appropriate, in my mind, because when jumping actually starts, it becomes much more serious.”
This practice structure has paid off for Scripps Ranch vaulters, particularly Jun Melchior, a newcomer to the team. He quickly became one of the best vaulters in the school’s history.
Melchior joined the team because, according to Mann, he “thought it looked fun,” and, “having exceptional athletic ability, very good speed, strong gymnastics skills and a fearless attitude, improved at a crazy pace.”
Jun ended up clearing 12 feet, 3 inches, and became the frosh county champion and only freshman qualifier for CIF. Jun’s story doesn’t end there, though – Jun’s sister, Ruby, vaulted as a freshman, but after a serious medical issue, was confined to a wheelchair and stayed on the team doing shotput.
“Getting to know Ruby, her parents and Jun and seeing their courage and commitment to transcend obstacles has been a real inspiration to the entire team, and to me especially,” Mann said.
From training for the Olympic trials to leading his son to the school record to continuing to coach vaulters at SRHS, Alan Mann has impacted and inspired many athletes over the years. For Mann, though, it is the athletes who inspire him.
“Athletes often appreciate the work coaches do to help them, but I don’t think they really appreciate the impact that they have on us as coaches,” he said. “Our student-athletes are truly inspiring and their efforts at participating in track will serve them well as they move forward in life.”
As for Mann’s favorite memories as a coach, he recalls the Mt. Carmel Invitational.
“After watching our vaulters jump and Ruby shotput, her family passed in front of me to leave, and Ruby, in her wheelchair, looked over, waved, and said, ‘thanks coach.’ From a coach’s perspective, it just doesn’t get any better,” Mann explained.