By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The way Travis Fisher looks at it, he was born to compete in the pole vault.
After all, Fisher’s grandfather, Lance Cooper, was a standout in the pole. As were Fisher’s two uncles, Don and Bruce Cooper. Not to mention, Fisher’s older sister, Tara, the former Observer Female Athlete of the Year in 2010.
They all preceded Fisher with the pole vault at North Arlington, so it made perfect sense that Travis would follow suit.
“I was definitely fascinated by it,” Travis Fisher said. “I liked watching Tara doing it. I guess I was in the fifth or sixth grade, when I went down with my grandfather and I tried it for the first time. I jumped only about nine feet. I was pretty good right away.”
It was definitely in his blood. It also didn’t take long for Fisher to want to pole vault all the time.
“It became an obsession,” Fisher said.
So twice a week, Fisher would take lessons and train at the Apex Vaulting in Fairfield.
However, once the winter track season begins, the training becomes just a tad more tedious. That’s because there is no facility for a North Arlington athlete to use for practice during the indoor season.
“It does get hard,” Fisher said. “I do training and conditioning with my teammates, but then I have to go to Apex.”
Famed coach Branko Miric has helped Fisher work on his technique to become a better pole vault athlete.
“I have gotten bigger and stronger,” Fisher said. “I do practice more. It’s all good.”
What is also good was the effort that Fisher and his mother, Leanne, put in to convince the North Arlington Board of Education that indoor track should be a viable varsity sport in the winter months.
It used to be that the track team pretty much had to train on their own during the winter months. Fisher and his mother thought that idea was foolish.
“We were the driving force behind it,” Fisher said. “We made the push to get indoor track as a sport. We saw other schools have it and said, ‘Why can’t we have it? We put out a petition and got a lot of signatures. The Board of Education was up for it. So were the coaches. We figured it would be hard. I thought it would take a couple of years. I honestly thought it would happen when I was out of high school, or maybe my senior year at the earliest.”
The program was initiated last year and in its first year of existence, North Arlington crowned a state champion in Danny Cordeiro, last year’s Observer Male Athlete of the Year who is now a soccer standout at NJIT.
Now, the program is in its second year and maybe it’s only fitting that the next state sectional champion should be the guy who helped initiate the program.
Fisher cleared the bar at 12 feet, six inches last Saturday at the Bennett Center in Toms River, to capture the gold medal at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championships.
Yes, Travis Fisher is a state sectional champion.
For his efforts, Fisher has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week, much like his older sister did on a couple of occasions during her brilliant athletic career.
“It feels pretty good to win,” Fisher said. “I’ve already hit 13 feet twice this year. My goal is 13-6. Fourteen feet would be awesome. I feel pretty confident now. I’ve had a couple people close to me who tell me what I should do. I think I have a pretty good shot to go higher.”
Fisher was once a football player at North Arlington, spending time on the gridiron both as a freshman and a sophomore.
“My grandfather and I had a conversation about it and I didn’t want to injure myself playing football,” Fisher said. “I also like doing the pole vault more.”
North Arlington indoor track coach John Zukatus likes Fisher’s determination.
“He’s very dedicated to the sport,” Zukatus said. “He comes to do training and conditioning with us, then goes to Apex and works out there. That’s what you need these days to be competitive in that sport.”
During the outdoor season, Fisher will also compete in the high jump, but his main focus in the pole vault.
“That’s where his heart is,” Zukatus said. “He’s quite reserved, but he can also be funny. He’s a mix of everything. But when he’s getting ready to vault, he’s very focused. He makes things easy for me as a coach. All I have to do is go over heights with him and watch him go.”
Zukatus was asked what it was like to have a second state sectional champion in only two years of the program.
“It’s good for the kids and good for the program,” Zukatus said. “They asked for the program themselves, got their parents involved and this is the result. I’m happy for Travis. He’s worked very hard to get where he is.”
Zukatus believes that Fisher could reach even better heights at the overall Group I state championships on Feb. 14.
“I’m not going to be shocked if he wins,” Zukatus said. “We have to see what happens. He definitely has a shot.”
Fisher said that having Tara Fisher as an older sister has been a motivation to him.
“She helped me a lot,” Fisher said. “She’s now serving as a volunteer coach with us. Having Tara and watching her as a kid gave me someone to look up to and admire. My uncle Don (the former head volleyball coach at North Arlington) also helped me a lot. And having my grandpa as a personal coach has been a huge help. I have a good relationship with my family. I know that my family all did well in the pole vault. It made me really get into it.”
Fisher said that he’s looking into the possibility of competing on the college level. Seton Hall, Caldwell and Rutgers- Newark have all shown interest. He would like to major in accounting because Fisher said he’s an excellent math student.
Right now, he’s busy being excellent in the pole vault, because after all, it was all in his family.