Koby Cormier was learning pole vault on the fly.
As a freshman and sophomore for the West Forsyth track and field team, Cormier's greatest learning moments wouldn't come at practice. Rather, he'd take time during meets to mingle with vaulters and coaches for other teams, picking around for pointers here and there without taking too much away from the meet.
Then Cormier would go home and spend his free time watching instructional videos on YouTube. Whatever it took to become the best, Cormier was probably more willing than most high school kids to do it.
That's because during his first two seasons as a vaulter, Cormier didn't have a coach. In his freshman season he didn't even have a fellow teammate. Instead of seeing those absences as a fatal flaw, he saw an opportunity to fill a void and help round out the track and field team at the school.
“It looked like a lot of fun,” Cormier said. “You can run all you want but you're never flying through the air like we are.”
That wasn't a tongue-in-cheek jab at the runners—not quite. Cormier ran the 400-meter dash and 800 for West when he first joined the track team—it was the same sport he had settled on in middle school. He originally wanted to play baseball, but knew with little travel team experience that it was going to be difficult to make the team.
So pole vaulting it was, and through Cormier’s four years at West he has developed into a machine. His freshman personal record was 8 feet 6 inches. By coaching himself and taking in pointers like a sponge, he spent his sophomore season increasing his PR to 10 feet. This summer he was up to 12 feet, and then came Saturday morning—the Class AAAAAA sectionals at Roswell High School.
Cormier might have surprised himself by taking first place in the regional, landing a personal record of 14-2. The next closest jump in the sectional was 13-6, done by teammate Jack Haller, Lambert's Mason Lord and Hillgrove's Ausin Woods.
Nevertheless, qualifying for state had been Cormier's goal all along. Last year he was one off the cutoff, finishing ninth at sectionals. Cormier attributes much of his growth to the addition of coach Kerry Farr, a community coach who arrived last year to specialize in pole vault training.
“Having a coach made such a difference,” Cormier said. “The long jump coach used to try to help us out as much as he could. Once Farr came he helped with a lot of basic stuff like getting our runs down. I was still running 400 at the time and didn't have my form. Plus, in the air there's so many tiny technical things you don't think about.”
Now Cormier can rattle off the fundamentals like a basic times table.
“Make sure you have your arms up, chest to the sky. Whenever you're in the air have a big right knee, then strong swing with your trail leg.
“That's pretty much it,” Cormier said with a smile.
Even though Cormier has accomplished so much, there are more goals to meet in the coming weeks. The senior not only hopes to win a state championship, but he's also planning on soaking in his last high school meet with Haller and Lord—hopefully, they represent Forsyth County well, he says.
But he won't be done then. Cormier will fill his free time in the coming months with more training, taking a longshot chance at qualifying as a walk-on for the University of Alabama track team. It won't be the end of the world if he doesn't make it, but with his academic and professional career so close he wants to make sure to leave everything he can out on the track.
“I've accomplished so much this season. We still have summer to focus on and hopefully by the end I achieve that goal,” Cormier said. “But, it's very hard being a collegiate athlete, and track and field is so competitive. I know the last jumper who signed for Alabama was the state champion for Texas.
“Whatever happens, though, I'll be happy there.”
Cormier has taken Advanced Placement classes and is on track to earn his MBA at Alabama in just five years. He'll head to Tuscaloosa on a full academic scholarship.
“I've been really focused on academics over the past few years,” Cormier said. “But track has kind of been the same.”