Cinco Ranch grad Saxman a dual threat in academics, athletics

Posted 6/14/21

Will Saxman embodied the essence of a student-athlete during his four years at Cinco Ranch.

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Cinco Ranch grad Saxman a dual threat in academics, athletics

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Will Saxman embodied the essence of a student-athlete during his four years at Cinco Ranch.

Saxman graduated third in his class this spring with a 4.8 GPA. That paved his way to the University of Texas at Austin, where he will be in the Canfield Business Honors Program. At the UIL Class 6A state track and field meet in May, Saxman placed fourth in the pole vault with a personal record of 15-feet, 6-inches.

Such academic and athletic success proved substantial early last week, when Saxman was honored with the THSADA (Texas High School Athletic Directors Association) Whataburger Scholarship Award. Saxman was one of two male student-athletes gifted the $1,500 scholarship, and it was his 500-word essay on the importance of sportsmanship in athletics that helped.

“Vaulters are this unique subgroup within track and field,” Saxman said. “Pole vault is a bit segregated, and you really develop bonds with these guys because pole vaulters typically only do that sport. If somebody needs to borrow a pole at a meet, for being too small or whatever reason, other vaulters will lend their poles, even if they could lose. I’ve had experiences where I’ve given poles to people, and I’ve received poles. You’re prepared to give the other athlete an advantage, right? Pole vaulters are just super supportive of one another. Even if it means you might lose, seeing someone else get their personal best is also super cool.”

Because there is a limit to how many vaulters can compete at a time at any one pole vault pit, there is a lot of down time. Vaulters have plenty of opportunities to get to know one another. It is also a technical event, so vaulters are always seeking feedback or giving advice, helping catch each other’s marks and paying attention to footwork and takeoffs.

There is a lot of minutiae in pole vaulting, from the speed a vaulter runs on the runway to the angle made when planting the pole on a takeoff to swinging up and off the top of the pole and over the bar. A lot of information has to be absorbed.

A foot forward or back off the takeoff mark can throw off an entire vault and cause the miss of a bar or, worse, injury on the runway.

But vaulters are not alone when undertaking such responsibility. For instance, Saxman has competed and trained with the same guys since the eighth grade.

“It’s not as simple as just running or jumping,” Saxman said. “You grab a 15-foot pole, stick it in the ground and jump over a bar. We’re all doing this really weird, scary thing, and we’ll try and help each other out.”

Saxman started pole vaulting in the eighth grade at Beck Junior High. He was in track and field in the seventh grade as a distance runner to get in better shape.

“After that season, I said, ‘I’m never doing that again,’” Saxman laughed.

The next year, his dad, Tim, a former state qualifier in the pole vault at his high school in Illinois, urged Saxman to try the event. Saxman joined a club in the eighth grade and would go to the school campus in the evenings with Tim to practice runs.

Prior to this senior season, Saxman spent a lot of time in the weight room from August to December. It helped him better use bigger, stiffer poles. The stiffer the pole, the higher the jump.

After winning the district, area and regional meets, Saxman’s mentality changed going into state at Austin. He went from a 15-foot, 1-inch pole to a 15-foot, 7-inch pole. He went from a shorter 10-step run approach to a longer 16-step run approach to allow more of a build-up in speed.

“Vaulters are intimidated by getting on bigger poles, but at state, I didn’t know if that might be my last meet ever,” Saxman said. “So, I was prepared to run as fast as I can, plant the biggest pole I’ve ever been on. I had to leave everything on the track because it might be the last time to compete at a meet like that.”

The reward was fulfilling. A career-best mark for Saxman. An incredible performance considering he “laughed” at the idea of going to state in January, despite being faster, stronger and showing improved technique. He simply never fit his own idea of what a state-qualifying vaulter looked like.

But with the support of his coaches, particularly Cinco Ranch’s Barry Minter, and Tim, Saxman learned to believe in himself. He had to. Too many people believed in him.

Saxman quadruple-PR’ed at a club meet in January, reaching 15 feet for the first time. That was a sign of things to come.

“That was my first moment of really doing well,” said Saxman, who hopes to walk on as a vaulter for the UT track and field program. “I got confidence and started being more consistent.”

All along, Saxman never took his focus off academics. Never did he allow himself to sacrifice the books for the track.

He grew up in a family that encouraged good grades. Academics were a priority. Saxman’s older sister, Katie, was salutatorian for the Class of 2011 at Cinco Ranch and was also a varsity cheerleader. She, along with his two other older siblings, served as role models for what it took to succeed academically and get the most out of high school for the future.

“From the get-go, I had a plan to get A’s and get good grades,” Saxman said. “There was a lot of maturity in my eighth-grade self with my first high school credit class, which was algebra. There’s a lot of discipline. It was basically engrained in me that I needed to work hard and set high standards for myself.”

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