Russell Kashka was born on January 3rd 1957 in Denver, Colorado. (Back then the United States only had 48 states, just so you know…)
Soon his parents decided to move to California, which is where he spent most of his childhood. He enjoyed living in the Golden State and finally became a High School Student. Of course he was trying to impress the girls, so he decided to be a football player. Since football is a fall sport, the head coach wanted all the players to do another sport in the spring so that they could stay in shape and be ready to play again in fall. He decided to try Track & Field and run the 880-yard dash (back then they ran everything in yards not meters), mainly because of his friend, who was one of the top Cross Country runners in the state of California at that time. His very first time trial, his friend just told him to stick with him and he would be fine.
“I ran through the finish line and I felt like my lungs were going to pop out.” After that day Russ never ever even thought about running another 880-yard race.
The next week he was just hanging out at track practice, trying to choose an event. He saw the vaulters and thought that is it. The Pole Vault became his forte. In 10th grade, which is the first year of High School back then, he ended up jumping 11 ft!
The season went by and it was football time again. Because he was playing front line, his coach wanted him to be as big as possible. He enjoyed playing football and was not that bad of a player either. But he also liked the Pole Vault. He was a quite successful vaulter, too. That meant, that after the fall he had to loose all the weight that he gained for football. He had a hard time with that, especially, because holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas were extremely disturbing and brought him off his diet plan. Due to that he ended up breaking 3 poles throughout his High School career.
In between weight gaining and weight losing he jumped 12’ 6” in 11th grade and as a senior he set his all time best with 13 ft.
After High School, Russ decided to move out into the world and get a job and his own place. He never considered going to College and never jumped on a pole again. But the sport of Track & Field never let go of him and he always stayed tuned and watched the meets on TV. “You know, Bob Seagren, Billy Olson, Steve Smith” Of course his favorite event – the Pole Vault – caught most of his attention.
But with the years his passion faded more and more. He moved to Las Vegas in 1980 and went into the vending machine business with his best friend he grew up with. He got married to his wife Sandy in 1986 and raised 3 daughters – Renee, Samantha, and Emily.
His oldest daughter Renee became a freshman at Coronado High School in 2002; the year that school opened it’s doors. Students were transferred to the school from other High Schools in the area to fill up the open spaces so that the school would not only have freshman.
His oldest daughter Renee ran Cross Country that year and when spring came up, Renee decided to do Track & Field. She was going to run distance events. Coronado did not have a vaulting coach and vaulters who jumped for their former schools felt mistreated, because the head coach told the team they would not contest the pole vault. Renee heard about that and knew that her dad did the Pole Vault in High School. She decided to ask him and finally persuaded him to come out and coach those kids, so with that, Russ Kashka built up Coronado’s first vaulting team.
The first meet was the Palo Verde Relays where schools from all over the Vegas Valley were set to compete. He was sweating it a little bit, because all he knew about the modern pole vault was, what he had looked up on the Internet. Here Russ met Coach Tilley, the vaulting coach for Green Valley HS, who was a very experienced coach and all his vaulters were quiet ambitioned to go far – or should I rather say ‘high’. He offered Coach Kashka to help out wherever he could and Tilley and Kashka became good friends. Also, Renee started vaulting, because she though it looked fun. She was very successful, too as she placed 3rd at State her sophomore year and eventually cleared 11’6” as a senior. His youngest youngest daughter, Emily, was also a successful vaulter for the Cougars as a 3-time Sunrise Regional Champion with 2nd & 3rd place finishes at State her Junior & Senior years.
In 2003 Tilley and Kashka first held a vaulting camp at GVHS, called Pure Sky. The friendship of the two kept growing and Coach Tilley asked if he would want to help him build up a Pole Vaulting club, which they did in 2005, when Pure Sky Vaulting became an official USATF-club.
Today Coach Kashka is still coaching the Cougars and is also assistant coach for Pure Sky Vaulting. He and Coach Tilley are really close friends.
Congrats to all the cool kids! Keep it up!