Jackson Tuomey was a skateboarder. That was his main activity at the time. So, upon receiving a parental mandate three years ago, Tuomey said, “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I just want to skate.’”
But his father, Scott, was adamant: Jackson — a skater, a daredevil, a taekwondo black-belt with a trampoline-gymnastics background who also took hip-hop dance classes — would have to join a team of some sort at Brunswick High School. He would have to branch out from his individual exploits.
Never one to rebel, no matter the skater stereotype, Jackson did what his dad said. He picked track and field. And when he took a vaulting pole in his hands early on, the event and sport neatly wedded the son’s love of danger with the father’s insistence.
Last week, Jackson Tuomey signed a National Letter of Intent to pole vault at St. Francis (Pennsylvania) University, garnering a partial athletic scholarship to the Division I school with jumps that have made him a state champion and put him in position to challenge MPSSAA records, should he get the chance to perform for the Railroaders this school year.
“I’ve always dreamed of him doing something dramatic in sports,” said Scott Tuomey, a science teacher at Brunswick High. “So when he sat and signed his papers, it was a dream come true.”
Sure, Jackson still grabs his board and skates when the weather is right. But today he undoubtedly identifies as a pole vaulter, too. Very quickly, he began devoting considerable time to improving at an event that was a natural fit.
Maybe one indoor track practice as a freshman was enough for the event to click with him. It didn’t hurt, Scott said, that some senior girls were apparently praising this novice boy for already clearing heights better than them.
By the time his first outdoor season ended, he’d already cleared 11-6. And, Brunswick vaulting coach Kevin Ropp said, “You could see he got the bug.” Tuomey began viewing and treating pole vault as a year-round endeavor — a key approach given the subtle techniques of the event.
“At the end of practice, he didn’t want to stop, regardless of how tired he might’ve been,” said Ropp, who pole vaulted for the legendary Don Boyer in the early 1980s at Middletown High. “You could see it. His energy and his enthusiasm to work hard and do more. I had no idea with that first year that this was how he would turn out.”
Tuomey’s mental and physical makeup were ideal for vaulting (he’s now 5-foot-11, 170 pounds), particularly what he’d cultivated as a youth gymnast at Frederick Gymnastics Club and the adrenaline-junkie tendency that “scares his parents to death,” according to Scott.
“No fear in this kid at all — that helps,” Ropp said. “And a little bit of crazy thrown in. That’s what you need for good pole vaulters.”
Season by season, Tuomey’s personal bests continued climbing. He broke the Brunswick High record with a vault of 14 feet, 9 inches at indoor regionals last winter as a junior, then won the state title with a Class 1A meet record 14-3 in February.
Over the summer — after having his junior outdoor season canceled by the coronavirus pandemic — Tuomey spent time almost every day at Vaultworx, a pole-vaulting facility in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. A Vaultworx owner and coach, Matt Concannon, set up a sanctioned vaulting event in his own backyard, where Tuomey soared on Aug. 8.
He flew past his previous personal best and thought, “All right, today’s the day.”
Sure enough, he soon cleared a height — 15-9 — that would be good enough to break the overall MPSSAA state-meet records, indoor or outdoor.
“I was pretty bewildered because I just barely skimmed over the bar and came down, and I looked up and it was still there,” he said. “And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’”
Tuomey had received interest from around 20 colleges, and St. Francis was the lone Division I program. After Scott forwarded video of Jackson’s 15-9 jump to St. Francis coach Douglas Hoover, their communication intensified.
“When he got his 15-9, [Hoover] was pretty dazzled that he’d jumped a full foot more than he had the year before,” Scott Tuomey said.
Jackson believes he’ll have a good chance at being one of the Red Flash’s top vaulters as soon as he joins the team next year in Loretto, Pennsylvania. St. Francis also has a business school that appeals to him.
As for the remainder of his Brunswick jumping career, he’s currently preparing for some sort of winter season — even if “indoor track” meets will be held outdoors — and hoping for a chance to improve on all of his events (he’s also does other jumps for the Railroaders). Now that his college decision is out of the way, Tuomey isn’t the type of kid to rest on his laurels or skate by — unless he’s riding his skateboard, that is.
He wants to go as high as possible every time he vaults.
“Obviously,” he said, “I’d like to say the sky’s the limit.”