When Randy Kramasz decided to move to Calaveras County a little over a year ago, his list of housing requirements wasn’t very long.
Kramasz didn’t care about granite countertops, track lighting or having a three-car garage. Finding a home with a pool or hot tub didn’t interest him either. No, when it came to finding the right place, there was just one thing that was a must: Kramasz, a longtime pole vault coach, wanted a piece of property where he could install his very own pole vault pit.
And just like in “Field of Dreams,” Kramasz figured that if he were to build it, pole vaulters would come.
“It’s always been my dream to have my own pole vault pit,” said Kramasz, 69. “I started looking for property up here maybe three years ago. The main thing that I wanted to do was find a piece of property with a big barn or big building that I could pole vault inside of.”
Recently retired from a career as a structural engineer, Kramasz was set on finding a home in Calaveras County. But because of COVID-19, homes in the mountains were not on the market for very long. And every time he’d find a place that would be perfect for his dream pole vault pit, it would be off the market before he could return to the Bay Area.
He finally found a property in Mountain Ranch, and while there was no obvious place for a pit, Kramasz got creative. While replacing his septic system, Kramasz borrowed a neighbor's tractor and saw an area that, if leveled out, could be a perfect place to put a pit. After a month of work, Kramasz’s dream came true, as he had carved out the perfect spot to place his pole vault pit.
Kramasz has used his home pit—which can cost nearly $30,000 new—to teach high school athletes how to become better vaulters. Over the summer, he had home lessons three days a week, and he hopes that once the winter gives way to spring, enthusiastic student-athletes will request his guidance to help them soar higher than they ever imagined.
“My goal is to elevate the area in the pole vault,” Kramasz said. “I would like to help the other coaches, and I did that last year by going to different meets. I’d invite everyone over here to learn how to vault. That bar is 10-feet, and 10-feet is kind of unheard of here, and I’ve had freshmen jump that high. I think with the right technique and being able to spend time training, 10-feet is doable.”
From vaulting to coaching
Kramasz didn’t think he would ever be a pole vaulter. As a child growing up in Concord, he was drawn to track and field, but his attention went to the running events and the high jump. But during his sophomore year at Clayton Valley High School, he gave pole vaulting a chance and never looked back.
“I liked that I was better than average,” laughed Kramasz. “I’ve grown to really like it because it’s very technical. Growing up pole vaulting in high school, it was just a really unique sport. We didn’t have coaches, so we kind of learned by trial and error. There was something about the sport where a PR (personal record) was more important than who won, and we all helped each other.”
After three years as a pole vaulter at Clayton Valley High School, Kramasz left his home in California and moved to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan in the fall of 1970. As a Wolverine, he was a member of the Michigan track and field team. Unfortunately for Kramasz, pole vaulting success didn’t follow him from California to Michigan.
“I went to school, and I was running track, working and flunking,” Kramasz said. “I couldn't quit school, and I couldn't quit working, so I ended up quitting track.”
Kramasz graduated in the spring of 1974 and migrated back to his home in Northern California. Even though he didn’t have the collegiate pole vaulting career he would have liked, Kramasz never stopped thinking about the sport he loved.
Upon returning to California, Kramasz went to the closest school he could find and offered to coach the pole vaulters. That school happened to be Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord. His time at Ygnacio didn’t last long, but that wasn’t the case for the next spot he landed.
Kramasz went on to coach at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek and stayed there for 30 years. His long coaching career came to an end when the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to high school sports in the spring of 2020.
“It was very difficult to leave the high school and the kids,” Kramasz said. “There’s never a good time to leave. As soon as you have a senior who graduates, you’ve got a freshman with potential, and you kind of want to see everyone through to their senior year. Covid kind of made it easy, because the seasons were canceled.”
During his career, Kramasz not only coached for 30 years at Las Lomas High School, but he also spent his summers coaching a club team. He took the lessons and kindness that was given to him from a coach he knew while in high school and passed those lessons on to his many athletes.
“When I went to high school, there was a coach named Bob McGuire from Pleasant Hill High School and for some reason, he took a liking to me,” Kramasz said. “He wasn’t my coach, but he would find me at every meet we were at, wish me luck, and then after the meet, he’d find me and ask me how I did. He taught me more about class because no other coach would talk to you during those days. You were the enemy if you went to a different school. I liked that about having a club team. I’d get all these kids together and say, ‘The other school is not the enemy, they just go to a different school.’”
As a club coach, Kramasz worked with athletes from different areas with different backgrounds. The one thing they all had in common was a desire to improve, and he made sure that happened.
“I had 15 to 20 kids from 20 different high schools,” Kramasz said. “It was really nice because I’d get all these kids who would work together, become friends and push everybody. Five or six years ago, I had five girls set their school records in one year. That was a pretty fun year.”
After moving to Calaveras County, Kramasz spent some time with the Calaveras High School pole vaulters during their short 2021 spring season. Kramasz hopes that a new generation of athletes will fall in love with the sport the same way he did over 50 years ago, and he’ll do whatever he can to make that possible.
“I would encourage anyone to pole vault,” Kramasz said. “I’ve never not coached anybody. Anyone that wants to come out, I’m happy to coach them.”