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St. Francis senior vaults to the top

Scott Toney
Courtesy of Scott Toney
An 8-year-old Scott Toney practices the pole vault with dad Steve at St. Francis High. Steve was the state champ in 1986.

By Melody Chen
Town Crier Editorial Intern

It seems St. Francis High senior Scott Toney was destined to be a champion pole vaulter. His father, Steve, was the 1986 state champ in the sport as a senior at Menlo-Atherton High and two of Scott’s older brothers, Marc and Shawn, both made it to state during their illustrious St. Francis careers.

Scott said he first realized pole vaulting was in his blood at age 7 when he was training with his dad using a 10-foot pole to land in their backyard sandpit.

“I ended up making my first bar when I was 7 or 8,” the Mountain View resident said. “And I wasn’t, like, hardcore training, but I would do things where I would practice in a sandpit with my dad, or I would practice just running into the side of the curb and planting the pole with my dad.”

Growing up in a pole-vaulting family has given Scott a unique perspective on the sport, he added.

“Whenever I would play something with (my brothers), I would frequently lose just because my closest brother (Marc) is seven years older than me and the next (Shawn) is 10 years and then the next is 12 years,” he said. “Now that I am older … it was just something that we could have a competition in and that was comparable.”

Watching his brothers practice and compete at a young age helped Scott dispel any fears of taking up a sport that not many people try; St. Francis is one of the few schools in the area that offers it as part of its track and field program. When Marc was hesitant to move up to a big pole, Scott told himself not to fear that. When Shawn had trouble taking off, Scott told himself to run for it without looking back.

“I would tell myself: ‘I’m never going to do that,’” he said. “‘I’m never going to not take off; I’m just going to go for it. I don’t care if I’m scared, I’m just going to go for it.’ And now I rarely run through or don’t take off unless I know something is wrong.”

Scott noted that his training and discipline have been integral to his success over the past year. From August to June, Scott said he has avoided sugar, whether it be in ice cream or even his favorite condiment – ketchup.

“I don’t like to put that stuff in my body, because what ends up happening is I get down to a weight that if I eat anything that’s unhealthy, I’ll gain instantly, like two pounds.” he said. “And that two pounds, in my mind, could be the difference between making 17-4 and not making 17-4.”

Scott cleared 17 feet, 4 inches in January to set a personal record and win the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno. Prior to that meet, Scott’s best effort was 16-1.5, which he achieved last year.

“In my mind, I was already making 17, and I’ve talked about this with my coach before,” said Scott, whose 17-4 record came on his first attempt at that height in Reno. “He likes for us to make 15-6 consistently with a bar, and I’m always the type of guy who goes, ‘No, let’s just shoot it up to 17-6,’ because, in my mind, when you start to raise the bar or the bungee, you start to have to vault better.”

Scott’s can-do attitude has not only paid off as a pole vaulter, but also as a student. The reigning Central Coast Section champion recently committed to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will join the track and field team next fall.

While academics are his No. 1 priority, he said his top athletic goal in college is to place at the NCAA championships and set the school record in the pole vault. Scott seems driven to do just that.

“The person who inspires me is probably my 10-year-old self,” he said, “because when I think of him, he always wanted to be the best. I want to make him proud because I knew he wanted to be the best, and he wanted to win the state meet and win the national meet and win the NCAA and do all this and go to the Olympics. I want to make that happen for him.”

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