Former WPIAL pole vault champion Tim Tray’s facility offers vaulters a chance to improve

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Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 11:01 AM


When Tim Tray was in high school at Norwin, the school didn’t have an indoor facility to practice the pole vault.

Tray, who cleared 15 feet and was a WPIAL champion in high school in 2003 and was in the mid 16s while winning a conference title at Slippery Rock University, has come up with a way to train pole vaulters in the event year round.

At Vault Athletics, Tray is providing athletes from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia a place to learn how to pole vault and practice.

“When I was in high school, you practiced your event in the spring,” the 2003 Norwin grad said. “Only Hempfield and Baldwin had indoor facilities.

“Pole vaulters from the area were falling behind vaulters from the eastern part of the state because they had more clubs popping up. We have some catching up to do.”

More than 100 vaulters have visited Tray’s facility along Route 30 in North Huntingdon since it opened last July.

He’s had vaulters from the Johnstown area practice at the facility and has heard from coaches in West Virginia.

Two Norwin vaulters — senior Hannah Shaw and sophomore Nicholas Puskar — who recently competed in the PIAA Class 3A championship, have practiced at the facility.

“Pole vaulting has always been a passion on mine,” said Tray, who coaches at Mt. Lebanon. “Having an indoor facility is something I didn’t have.”

Tray does the teaching for newcomers to the sport and to boys and girls trying to master it.

“I go back to the basics,” said Tray, who was inducted into the Norwin Hall of Fame in 2018. “I start with the basics of how to hold the pole to jumping drills. I can usually get someone to jump at the first practice. Most of the time, they love it and stick with it.

“Some kids surprise you how fast they pick it up. Once they figure it out, they see what a rewarding experience it is and the great feeling they get.”

Tray isn’t alone in instruction at Vault Athletics.

“I’ve had some help from other coaches along the way,” Tray said. “While I do most of the teaching, Bruce Corna (Franklin Regional), Bob Reynolds (Baldwin), Matt Fox (Hempfield) and Paul Gogniat (Gateway) have helped out.

“There are no limits the bar can raise in this sport. It’s as far as you can take it. I’ve had two Norwin Middle School jumpers break the school and county records. The next few years is going to be fun to watch them grow.”

Tray said Xander Irwin has already cleared 12 feet and is ranked No. 1 in the state for his age group. Kiley DeNoble and Hempfield’s Mayla Brunazzi each have cleared 10-6, but DeNoble is ranked No. 2 in the state because of fewer misses.

“There are a lot of young talented vaulters coming up,” Tray said. “It’s going to be an exciting time.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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