By Mimi Wood, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
Photos by Laura Togami
Two years of pole vaulting; fourth in the nation in his age group. Not bad for Jonathan Togami, third-generation Sullivan’s Islander. Not bad at all, except Hannah, his little sister, can one-up him. She can’t quite beat his personal best of 14’ 6”, however, her personal record of 10’ 2.25” landed her third place in her age group at the USATF Nationals, a weeklong event the siblings attended in Greensboro, NC this past summer. In addition to placing nationally, both Hannah and Jonathan are state champions.
“I wasn’t expecting to place that high,” Hannah humbly recalls, “I was just trying to do my best.” One of the 3 youngest girls in the 13-14 age group, Hannah smiles, “I was very excited when I placed third.”
You’d be hard-pressed to meet a more remarkable pair. Both are poised, articulate, self-motivated and competitive, although “with pole vaulting, you are kind of competing with yourself. I’m always striving to clear the next height I haven’t attained,” explains Jonathan.
“I’m always trying to get better,” adds Hannah. They deflect their accomplishments to their coaches and their teammates. “Coach Reagan is amazing. Really, really amazing,” Jonathan exclaims. “The entire team is like a family. It’s relaxed. We all support each other…I’m trying to catch up to Dillon McCarthy,” his teammate who placed first at Nationals, “and stay ahead of Luke Carullo,” his teammate hot on his tails. Both encouraged and pushed Togami when he was just starting out.
Togami, Wando High School’s varsity volleyball manager, was “jumping carts one day after practice. ’You should go out for track.’ people told me,” and Togami was introduced to Coach Shiver, head track coach at Wando. “Coach Shiver found out I’d been a gymnast,” Togami recounts, “and took me over to Coach Reagan, the pole-vaulting coach. ‘Can you do a backflip?’ “ Reagan slyly asked. Once he’d made the team, Togami began to talk to Reagan about his sister, Hannah. She tried out and made the team as a seventh grader at Moultrie. Currently, both Hannah and Jonathan are members of the Wando High School team and the Mt. Pleasant Track Club.
Pole vaulting is quite a demanding sport. Daily practices go as long as two hours, involving stretching, drills and running. “You definitely use your entire body,” Togami describes, “but probably more of your upper body, and core.” He goes on to explain how you clear the bar on your stomach, then twist in mid-air to land on your back.
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened? For Jonathan, “the first time a pole snapped in half in the middle of a vault. It happened so fast; it actually wasn’t really scary until I found myself laying on the ground. ‘What just happened?’ I asked myself.” After a moment of thought, Hannah replies to the same query, “Watching my brother fall when his pole snapped in half.” And yet, “It’s so much fun. It feels like you’re flying.”