WATCH: Pole vaulters take part in the first-ever ‘Pole Vault in the Square’ at Mercato stores
Kayden Cecil and Simon Weardon, both natives of Naples, said it took years to talk about the concept and months to make their event a reality.
Alex Martin, Naples Daily News
Seeking to revive the popularity of the pole vault, Kayden Cecil and Simon Weardon had an idea.
Cecil, a 2018 Gulf Coast graduate, and Weardon, a 2021 CSN graduate, attended several events across the country featuring pole vaulting and wanted to host a similar one in Naples.
After years of brainstorming and months of planning, that idea became reality on Saturday, as the pair spent countless hours preparing for the first Pole Vault in the Plaza. It was held in Mercato stores in Naples, where passers-by could see the pole vaulters show off their skills.
“There’s a meet in Key West, which is possibly one of the biggest pole vault meets of the year in America,” Weardon said. “I saw that, and I turned to my partner Kayden and said, ‘Kayden, I don’t care what we have to do, we’re bringing this to Naples, Florida. Whatever it takes. “We seemed to accomplish that.”
“We’ve been talking about having a street meet for over three years,” Cecil said. “We finally succeeded, but we needed a lot more people than us.”
Cecil and Weardon started planning after seeing the Pole Vault in Paradise firsthand in Key West, to get a feel for the logistics. It was difficult for the two to find a place that would accept to host them, until Valerie Cope, senior director of marketing at Mercato, let them organize the event.
“We started planning for this in January, right after that (Key West) meeting,” Weardon said. “The hardest thing was trying to get a venue. When you think about pole vault, the average person doesn’t understand the sport as much, what it’s like. We went to see Valerie here at Mercato.
“She was able to understand our vision and helped us make this day possible. She was the only person in Naples ready to welcome us. She took a risk on us and she made it possible.”
The event not only brought together locals like Anika Homolka from North Fort Myers (ranked 5th in class 3A last month) and Raegan Miller from Fort Myers (T-12th in 3A), but also other attendees from the outside the region. Archbishop McCarthy junior Sydney Nicholson, who placed third in the Class 3A competition this spring, was one of the notable entrants, along with Miami Palmetto’s Camryn Givens (6th in 4A).
Homolka, who graduated last month from North, set a new personal best of 11-foot-5 while taking first place in the event. She received a top prize of $600, which she hadn’t expected.
“It was so much fun,” Homolka said. “I hadn’t trained for about six weeks so I was afraid I would do wrong, but it all went well and I’m so happy to have participated. I was delighted to have reached this PR. I hadn’t done PR in a few months
“I hope it brings more awareness to the sport. I think a lot of people don’t know what it is, and I hope it gets more attention.”
On the boys’ side, CSN senior Nick Molloy was in attendance, as was FHSAA state record holder Stone Baker. Baker, now at USF, set a 2018 mark of 16 feet 8.25 inches, breaking the state record by a quarter inch that year. TCU signer Sergio Rivas made the farthest trip, driving 21 hours from Austin, Texas to participate.
It wasn’t Molloy, Baker or Rivas, however, who took first place. Georgia signee and Atlanta resident Alon Rogow, one of America’s top pole vaulters, finished on the top step of the podium. Baker finished second, while Molloy took third place.
Related: WATCH: Pole vaulters take part in the first-ever ‘Pole Vault in the Square’ at Mercato stores
Rogow, who at one point held the No. 1 ranking in the United States among high school students this season, said he received a message from the two organizers, and with his grandparents nearby, everything worked out until where. he could see them while spending a few days on vacation in southwest Florida.
“I found out about this when Simon and Kayden DMed me on Instagram,” Rogow said. “They basically said they wanted me to get down and jump. It seemed like a good time. I have my grandparents who live about 45 minutes from here, it worked out perfectly.
“I drove with my family two nights ago, took a few vacations before that and felt good. I jumped about as good as ever and ended up taking the win.”
Cecil and Weardon hope Saturday’s event, which lasted nearly 12 hours, will highlight an on-court event that won’t get the time or TV coverage that other track and field events do.
“The aim of this event is to develop the sport of pole vaulting and to make people realize that it is an adrenaline sport, it is simply not presented anywhere,” said Cecil . “It’s not televised anywhere, there is not enough money in the event. The important thing is that the children can see the spectators watching them, it gives them adrenaline.
“It’s just good for the whole pole vault community, and it’s good for the community as a whole.”