Coach vaults team to new heights


By Brent Meske, @Brentmeske

Two years ago, SIU’s pole vault coaching position was vacant. Now the Salukis are led by a former four-time national pole vault qualifier.

Brian Porter, in his third year as pole vault coach at the university, has the pole vault program among the best in the Missouri Valley Conference. Both the men’s and women’s teams have four of the top eight athletes in the MVC standings.

Porter had one man and no women in the top eight of the MVC in his first year. Last season, he had one man and two women in that rank.


Along with strong standings in the MVC this year, Porter has coached six of his female vaulters into the top seven of SIU’s all-time indoor records.

“They are a testament to what they believe in.” he said. “I can’t ask for a better group of kids.”

Freshman Lindsey Murray, who has set the indoor school record in each of her four events, said Porter has helped her improve.

“He picks out little things that I need to work on,” she said.

Murray is part of a young pole vault program that Porter has recruited since coming to SIU.

Porter said recruiting is the most important part of college athletics. Porter also recruited sophomore Katie Trupp, who finished fifth in the MVC Indoor Championships and second in the MVC Outdoor Championships last season.

Five of the six women in the top seven all-time are freshmen and sophomores. Porter said he is optimistic about the future.


Senior Caselyn Harding, the sixth vaulter on the list, said Porter and former pole vault coach Dan Digman are completely different.

“Porter is more of the go-get-them attitude,” she said. “Digman was more laid back and didn’t have as much time to put in.”

Track and field coach Connie Price-Smith said Digman, who was a pastor at the Vine Church in Carbondale while coaching, left the team after receiving news he got his own church in Pennsylvania.

When the position was vacated, Price-Smith said a friend from Texas Tech University told her about Porter.

“I called him and he was enthusiastic and exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “We needed someone to come in with spark and fire.”

Porter came to SIU after serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater Texas Tech.

At Texas Tech he coached six national qualifiers, a three-time Big 12 runner-up, the women’s school record holder, 2011 men’s Big 12 champion and the 2011 Big 12 Outstanding Freshman of the Year.

Porter said accepting the job at SIU was an easy decision because of Price-Smith. He said other coaches told him he found a great place to coach.

“[Price-Smith] has allowed me to do my job,” he said. “She gives me her opinion, but she allows me to be me and coach the way I want to coach.”

Porter learned his coaching style from his mentor Rock Light, coach at Adams State University.

“He has been my coach and he has been like a second dad to me,” Porter said.

Porter said Light taught him to coach the event, not the athlete.

“If I have to coach a lot at the event, I haven’t done my job,” he said. “I have to prepare my athletes so they’re ready for the event.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.