LOUISVILLE - The state track and field championships kick off on Thursday. If you attend, you'll want to be watching the pole vaulting mat, and listening for a familiar name.
Max and Mia Manson are pole vaulting to the summit of the Colorado high school track and field leader board. This spring, the Monarch Coyotes are each tied for the top outdoor mark in the state. Max, a sophomore, vaulted 15 feet, 8 inches. His sister Mia, a freshman, went 12-foot-8, the highest mark in the country for a 9th grader this year.
"Never would I have thought I would be number one in the nation for freshmen," Mia said. "I figured I'd do well because I have my dad and everything, but I never knew I could do that well."
It would be easy to attribute their successes to their genetics.
"My parents were both world-class athletes, so we grew up with track," Mia said.
Mother Amy Manson was a three-time Olympic Trials Qualifier in the 5k and marathon events. She was also a NCAA Division I All-American at Indiana University. Father Pat Manson was a track-and-field star at the University of Kansas. There, Pat would become an NCAA Division I All-American and Big Eight conference champion. After turning professional, he went on to earn three Pan American Games gold medals in the pole vault, and in 1996 and 1997, he was the No. 1 ranked pole vaulter in the United States. In 1997, he was ranked No. 6 in the world.
Pat's legacy, however, all started at Aurora Central High School. In 1986, he set the boys' pole vault state record at 17 feet, 3 inches -- a record that still holds to this day.
"Everyone who had a chance at breaking it, he's coached them and helped them to do that," Max said. "He wants me to break it."
It has become evident now that his children are on track to do just that. To anyone who watches them, their abilities appear natural. That makes it all the more surprising when you learn neither Max nor Mia got serious about the sport until they entered high school.
"We have just been around it so much, it's almost like even though that young we weren't doing it a ton, we got to see it done so much," Max said.
That included summers growing up, where Pat Manson would coach pole vaulting summer camps
"My parents always wanted to make sure we never felt pressure to do any of it," Mia added. "When they introduced us to it, they let us go at our own pace, and my brother and I both fell in love with it."
"I think [our parents] were super excited that both my brother and I decided to go with track. They say they love watching it especially since they both competed in high school and remember what it was like."
Both Max and Mia have high goals and aspirations in their pole vaulting careers. Mia is shooting to top the national freshman record (13 feet, 3 inches).
"I don't really care as much about placing-wise as getting a big [personal record]," she said. "I really care about PRs more than placing, so I'm really hoping to jump higher than 12-8 at state."
Max finished as runner-up at the 5A state meet last year, after going back-and-forth with Connor Roberts from Cherry Creek High School. Roberts ultimately won with a jump of 15 feet, 10 inches.
"I got some really close attempts at 16 [feet] at all the meets I got to jump in," he said of this spring.
When the bar is set that high -- literally or figuratively -- it can be intimidating, so we won't jump to conclusions just yet. But it appears the Mansons from Monarch may be on track to catapult to some new records very soon.
"It's so cool when people recognize, 'Oh, your dad's Pat Manson,'" Mia said. "I hope that name continues to be big in the track world."
Mia will also be competing in the 100 m dash prelims in this week's meet.
The 5A pole vault finals are scheduled for Saturday, May 20. The boys event takes place at 11 a.m. and the girls begin at 1:30 p.m.
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