NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Mike Cockerham has a lifelong passion for the sport of pole vault. The former Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan coach has spent the last 22 years in charge of the Flying Dragons Club in Normal, and he just can’t get enough.
“Probably the most addicting sport of all sports known to man,” Cockerham said. “Once you start swinging on that stick and making bars, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got to go vault.'”
Mike trains athletes from a 200-mile radius and has helped members earn more than 12 million dollars in college scholarships in pole vaulting. In fact, five of the six IHSA state champions in pole vault this year train with the Flying Dragons.
“It’s cool what Mike has done. He’s brought us together and he’s got us all to jump these great heights,” U-High senior and 2021 IHSA Class 2A state champion Colton Naffziger said. “And having these top tier athletes here, even at young ages, it really grows the enviornment.”
“I kind of grew up here. It’s kind of been like a second home basically,” Bloomington junior and 2021 IHSA Class 2A state champion Lillianna Ifft said. “I’ve just always been around everybody here, it’s just been like a second family and it’s a gold mine here.”
So what’s the key ingredient to the success for the Flying Dragons? A lot of hard work and dedication from all involved.
“It’s an amazing facility, great community. Amazing coaches, couldn’t ask for better coaches,” Cornerstone Christian junior and 2021 IHSA Class 1A state champion Ridge Willard said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the coaches here, I couldn’t emphasize it more.”
“There are some incredible athletes here,” Cockerham added. “My job on this Earth is to take young kids and teach them how to pole vault correctly, so that they can go on. That’s what I do.”