It all began on September 27th 1969. Robert Tilley was born in Oklahoma. He spent his childhood in the small town of Mustang, near Oklahoma City. When he was 11 years old, he and some friends were watching the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow, Russia. The Track & Field events really caught their attention. They liked it so much that they built their own little track in an open lot right next to Robert's house. The fact that there wasn't much to do in the little town of Mustang, plus their fascination with the sport made them create their own track meets. Robert picked to be the pole vaulter. “It just looked so amazing and I was a dare devil at the time.”
When he started 7th grade, he was wanted to join the Track & Field team. He decided to try out for Pole Vaulting because in his words,: “I though if I would choose a Field event there would be less running.” Surprisingly he couldn’t make the Vaulting team and ended up doing the 880-yard dash. Now that was not a lot of running?
Although he wasn’t on the pole vault team, he was still interested in vaulting. It paid off, because the next year he made the vault team! From there on, his passion for the sport started growing and growing. During his freshman year, he was able to collect enough money to purchase his very first pole vault pole. His mom was very supportive, and she even made him a pole bag to carry his pole in. That same year, he won the freshman and 8th grader only Conference Championship.
With the support of his mom, who could arrange practices with coaches from the University of Oklahoma, (which she paid in cinnamon rolls and other treats and sweets), he almost advanced the State Championships as a sophomore. The next year – his junior year – he advanced to the State Championships and won the bronze medal as he came in 3rd. Then, as a senior, he qualified for the State Meet. That year, the Oklahoma State title went to - Robert Tilley from Mustang High School.
He started his college career at Eastern Oklahoma State College. There, he won 3 All-American titles for the 2-year college. He also received his first coaching experience when he helped out at Wilbertson High School in Oklahoma City. After graduating from EOSC, he chose to go to Wichita State University for another 2 years. Vaulting for the Shockers, he was the Conference runner-up and was always in the top 6 at the Conference meets. He finally ended college career with a PR of 5.18m (16-11 ¾).
After graduating from College, he decided to follow his family and friends as they moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. He was looking for a pole vault coaching position at local high schools, which was not an easy task because the State of Nevada was considering dropping the pole vault from their Track & Field programs. Since the sport was dying it did not seem like a smart move to hire a new pole vault coach. Fortunately, he met a pole vaulter and student, Gabe Johnson from Green Valley High School, who asked for Robert’s help. Gabe became more and more successful and the Gators staff decided to invite Robert to help out other vaulters. In the end, he became Green Valley’s head coach for pole vaulting.
Today he is known as Coach Tilley. He has also helped other kids, who were not from Green Valley High School. Schools like Boulder City, The Meadows, Coronado, and Chaparral are grateful to receive his help. Over the years, a group of vaulters started to build up, and with the name Pure Sky Vaulting, a ‘Club’ was born. The Sky Athletics Club in Arizona, which also runs the ‘Kiss the Sky Camp’ every summer, inspired the name ‘Pure Sky Vaulting’. The first real ‘clubber’ was Andy Taylor from Chaparral High School. Since 1998 the group just kept growing and growing. Soon, membership increased and Coach Tilley needed help. He invited Russ Kashka to join on as an assistant coach. His daughter, Renee, also received coaching help from Coach Tilley, and the two were friends anyway. In 2005, Pure Sky Vaulting finally became an official USATF club and vaulters from all over the city flocked to join the club. The growth has been unstoppable, and with the addition of Coach Edwards in 2008, then Coach Roe in 2009 the club has been able to expand to become the premiere pole vault club it is today.
To date, Pure Sky Vaulting has produced 10 Girls Regional Champs, 15 Boys Regional Champs, 6 State Champs, and 2 State Records!!! Especially remarkable is, that the Boys Sunrise Region has been won by Pure Sky Vaulters for 11 years straight now. Also mentionable is, that the Girls Sunrise Region has been won since 1999 by Pure Sky Vaulters, with the exception of 2004.
Congrats to all the cool kids! Keep it up!