Cassidy Allen (left) may not be the household name that some other prominent vaulters across New York State find themselves as, and you can blame the pandemic for that. Her school of Southwestern, a district with BEDS numbers hovering right around 300, doesn't field an Indoor Team. Allen was relegated to unattached competitions this past Winter, shortened even further by the cancellation of New Balance Indoor Nationals. That means she hasn't seen scholastic competition since June of 2019.
But the training hasn't stopped.
On February 9th of 2020, Allen would make one foray back into competition. She headed to Ohio to compete at the SPIRE Scholastic Showcase, clearing a personal best 10-6 to win the event. It had been her first time on the runway since Middletown eight months prior, where she cleared a then-PR of 10-0 at the Outdoor State Meet, a 6-inch improvement on her best of 9-6 set at the State Qualifier.
The numbers weren't World Beating, but were still strong for a D2 School, New York State's designation for a 'Small School' during the Spring Track Season, designated for school enrollment numbers falling under at least 600 students in 10th through 12th Grade.
Still, the improvement showed the training was working.
Regardless, Allen had always trusted her coach. Her belief in Mike
Auble and what he was able to do for her never wavered. That trust was what brought her to The Warsaw Pole Vault Club in the Spring for 2019.
It wasn't until this summer, though, that the now-senior began trusting herself, knowing that she was actually capable of accomplishing the goals Auble had set for her.
Over the Summer, as all eyes were one Auble's other protegee, now National Record Holder Leah Pasqualetti, but Allen had been there too. The Pole Vault Club would hold Summer Meets to tune Pasqualetti up, and all along, Allen was improving too. May 25th, she took home third place with an 10-1 clearance. A few weeks later, on Jun 8th, she was up to 11-2. That turned into an 11-8 on June 17th. The progression was rapid.
Allen's journey to upward included a vault of 12-7 on Sept.
26 at The PVP September Invite, which was held at The Warsaw Pole Vault Club.
She tied for second with Kent State freshman Leah Pasqualetti, the former
Orchard Park High star who set the U.S. high school girls record [14-8.25] in
June. Kat Pitman, the National Division III record holder and former NCAA
Division III champion, took the top spot at 13-7.
Fall Practice On A 13-7 Bungee
The mark of 13-0 is significant. If accomplished in a meet, it would be just shy of the D2 State Record, currently held by Amy Linnen (Mt. Sinai) at 13-0.25, set back in 2000. D2 Records can only be set based on the enrollment at the time of the Record. Mt. Sinai has since moved to a D1 School, currently holding 648 students. Also of note is Tiffany Maskulinski's 14-0 clearance for Iroquois HS. Currently, Iroquois is a D2 School, but was D1 at the time of her Record. With such low enrollment, Southwestern isn't set to change anytime soon.
"She went toe-to-toe with the best high school vaulter in
history and the best Division III vaulter in history," Auble said. "If she was
intimidated or nervous at all, it didn't show. When they were warming up,
Cassidy was interacting with them and she fit in perfectly. She carries herself
like she belongs there. We're disappointed that it [her jump] wasn't a Division
2 state school record but that's coming. It's just a matter of time."
While Allen didn't set the New York State Division 2 girls
record in the meet -- which was one of her objectives going in -- she and Auble
remained thrilled at the outcome and with her effort especially when
considering the competition. Allen did set an opening vault PR when she cleared
12-1 and looked good, according to Auble, on the short-run approach. It's all part of the trust the pair share that big things are to come.
And that trust might be what keeps Auble going. Auble was set to retire
from Coaching after the 2020 Season, selling his at-home pits at one
point in early September. But the potential of one more athlete was too
hard to give up on.
Allen's poise will undoubtedly be of great benefit moving forward. Since she is coached by Auble and has trained with Pasqualetti, though, there will inevitably be comparisons between her and Pasqualetti . Allen doesn't judge herself by what she has done in relation to Pasqualetti, however. She simply views her as a mentor and friend.
"I'm absolutely not worried about comparisons," Allen said. "It's been wonderful to be able to train with the best vaulter the nation has ever seen. Leah is the nicest person you'd ever want to meet and is so supportive and humble. It's perfect. She gives me tips before meets and has always been there to say nice job. It's been incredible that way.
"Leah is extremely hard working and that makes training with her so good. It's easy to push yourself around her because she has such an incredible work ethic."
While Pasqualetti has motivated Allen and pushed her a bit, Auble says he saw something in her when the two first met in April of 2019, long before she began working out with Pasqualetti. Allen was competing at a meet in which Pasqualetti was jumping and her performance caught Auble's eye. So much so, he introduced himself to Allen's parents. He says it was one of the first times that he ever got up and introduced himself to an athlete's parents but what he saw in Allen that day necessitated the unprecedented move.
"She jumped eight feet and Leah jumped 12-7 so that wasn't a fair fight at the time," Auble said. "But she impressed me with her toughness and how she carried herself. I introduced myself to her parents and said I think we need to know each other. So they took a two-hour drive to my house, we met and talked and before you know it, she's training at our place."
Allen began working out at Auble's facility once a week and then, throughout the summer heading into her junior year, when the workouts became a twice a week. They went back to once a week during the school year but it was evident the work they were putting was beginning to pay off. Allen took first place at The SPIRE Scholastic Showcase on Feb. 9 with what was then a PR of 10-6.
The pandemic, however, brought everything to a halt the following month and Allen didn't see Auble in March or April. It wasn't until May that they began training again. Allen again trained with Auble throughout the summer and sees him during the week on virtual school days -- days Allen isn't in class in person -- this fall.
Allen does her classwork and homework during the two-hour car ride to Auble's facility and credits her parents for their willingness to sacrifice six hours of their day [four for travel and two for practice] so that she can succeed. Even with that, she says she never imagined that things would come together for her so quickly. Auble, however, sees it a bit differently.
"I've coached a lot of pole vaulters and no one has ever accelerated and learned the event and thrown themselves into it like Cassidy," he said. "She's the furthest ahead of every vaulter I've coached at this point, even Leah. It would be unfair to Leah and to Cassidy to say that Cassidy is going to jump higher than Leah ever did. They both have their own paths.
"I wouldn't want to sell Cassidy short, though. She is a very impressive young lady and we have the benefit of following in Leah's footsteps. She has seen how it works and how we are going to do what we want to do. It's easier once Everest has been climbed. Other people have seen that it can be done."
Allen may be the next big thing in girls' high school pole vaulting in New York State but she doesn't seemed fazed by that possibility. She says she is excited about what her future holds and blessed to be given this opportunity, adding that she is comfortable with always "doing her best and whatever happens after that happens as a direct result of my actions."
Those actions should put Allen in a nice position when it comes time to choose a college. She has looked at a few schools already -- Buffalo, Binghamton & Akron on the docket. She wants to look at several more but there are other factors to consider.
She and her twin sister Kayla -- who does the pentathlon at Southwestern -- would like to attend the same school because they "work well when they are together". Cassidy Allen is leaning towards engineering but wants to find a school that offers a nice balance between academics and athletics, a place where she can benefit from and excel at both.
It's all part of her journey, one that is proving to play a big role in the ever changing high school pole vault landscape in New York.
"The journey isn't over yet," Cassidy Allen said. "It took time with some of the hardships in my rougher meets but it's starting to pay off. This is still the beginning of my journey. I can't wait to see where it leads."