By Hannah Christopher, Running Editor, The Times
Xavier Feliciano is an extraordinary person who is a senior at Kennett High School. His pole vaulting coach Paul Eyanson is also extraordinary, and the two of them together have accomplished great heights.
Literally and physically the team of these two have made it possible for Xavier to attend the state meet this Saturday, and later on to the nationals by jumping a school record height of 15 feet. This also ranks Feliciano third in the state and 47th in the nation.
On Monday afternoon I was fortunate enough to sit down with both coach and athlete and ask some questions to each of them on how they have reached this point in their careers.
Xavier was born in Puerto Rico and went back and forth a bit but ended up staying for good by 6th grade and settling in Kennett Square. He lives with his Mother and three siblings, Denise, Odalys and Salvadore who is his biggest fan. Xavier was encouraged to come out for track by Assistant Coach Carl Lowe in 9th grade, but he did not go out until 10th grade while still being pursued to do so by the relentless Coach Lowe. By the end of his sophomore year he had learned to pole vault and had done 13 feet. Coach Paul Eyanson then came into the athlete’s life by becoming Kennet’s Pole Vaulting coach and taking Xavier under his wing. By the end of Junior year he jumped 14’9 and with the whole spring season ahead of him and states this weekend he is at 15 feet.
‘However, the day belonged to pole vaulter Xavier Feliciano. In his most impressive meet of his career, Xavier brought home the gold medal with a new school record vault of 15 feet. This performance places him as the 3rd ranked vaulter in the state and 47th in the nation while also qualifying him to participate in the Championship Level Pole Vault Competition at the New Balance Indoor Nationals Meet in March.’
— John Ramagano
When asked if Xavier has any pre-meet traditions he answered, “I do not sleep the night before because I am to excited to compete. When I am getting ready to vault I completely zone out everybody. I am in a mental state of mind to perform at my best and I know I am giving it everything I got.” He loves it with a passion and says he has to remind himself when he is up in the air, which only lasts not even one second, to breath. “I can breath, just breath.”
How do you improve your vault by inches when you feel you cannot go any higher I asked of him? He answered that he breaks the jump down, he works on his speed to improve his explosiveness at the end of the runway, and he does a lot of abdomen work and training during the off season.
Xavier works with Coach Paul in the off season to continue improving and working towards his goals. His goal is to major in criminal justice in college and compete in the decathlon. He does whatever Coach Ramagano (head coach of Kennett) asks of him. If he needs a sprinter in a meet, he does it. A long jumper, yes, a high jumper, yes, 400 meter runner, yes, he plans on running the mile in the spring and will work on the throws. All of these events make up the decathlon, arguably the decathlete is the greatest athlete in all of sports . He has what it takes to be an amazing decathlete in college.
Coach Paul Eyanson grew up in West Philadelphia in the 1950’s and his first introduction to track was when he and his friends rode their bikes to the Penn Relays and he went in and saw 40,000 people at the track meet.
That was it, he caught the addiction to track right there and then for the rest of his life. He and his friends would hitchhike to Villanova and hang out at the track and see many of the greats and they would make up some of their own track games. Eventually he grew up and learned from some of the best coaches while in college and while working as a trainer for Yale, and the 1964 Olympic Coach at the time Robert Giegengack. Coach Paul has coached at Oxford, Avon Grove and now at Kennett High School where he has been able to teach Xavier and many others many life lessons as well as how to become a better pole vaulter and an even greater person.
Greg Bowen who was a longtime pole vaulting coach at Downingtown years ago had a great influence on Coach Paul and his philosophy. He told me that Bowen would not only coach his athletes but would give Paul tips and help his athletes at all competitions.
“The way he treated other people made a lasting impression on me.” Coach Paul wanted to be sure that he thanked these people on the record. Every day when he goes to the track at Kennett, the first thing he does when he walks through the gate is to point his finger to the sky and say “thank you.”
Coach Paul tells Xavier and his other athletes, “there is only one fastest human in the world- be the fastest human you can be.” Xavier is benefiting from Coach Paul and a great staff of coaches at Kennett High School and he appreciates each of them.
He said, “the coaches have taught me how to perform at my best and they have prepared me to succeed.” Although Xavier has many, many fans along with his coaches in the Kennett community, it is his brother Salvadore who is his biggest fan and the first one to text him and ask him how he did at a meet. Xavier likes being a role model to his younger brother and he has been fortunate enough to have many of them himself in his coaches at Kennett High School.
To view results for this weekends state track meet at Penn State. Go to Pennxc.com Best of luck to an amazing, hard working young man this weekend named Xavier Feliciano.