Thornton Academy’s Travis Snyder set a state record in the pole vault this year and finished third in the national meet. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

It’s not unusual to find a basketball hoop in someone’s yard. Or even a kickboard for soccer players.

But a pole vault mat?

There’s one in a yard on Franklin Street in Saco. Travis Snyder, a graduate of Thornton Academy in June, lives there. Maybe that’s why his name is at the top of the state’s pole vault record books.

Snyder soared 16 feet, 9 1/4 inches at the Class A state championship meet, shattering the meet record of 16-0 and the all-time Maine best of 16-9, both set in 2008 by David Slovenski of Brunswick. Snyder also won two hurdles events and finished fifth in the long jump. And that’s why he is the Varsity Maine Athlete of the Year for boys’ outdoor track.

“Yeah, he did pretty well overall,” said Erik Ryder, Thornton’s pole vault coach. “The biggest thing about Travis is his work ethic. He’s blessed with athletic ability to begin with. But his drive and determination is huge. And he’s a smart kid.”

Snyder said he “grew up around track.” His dad, Paul, was a pole vaulter while growing up in California. Travis said he started using the vaulting mat in his yard in the eighth grade. “I liked it because I was good at it,” he said. “It just came naturally to me.”

Snyder’s pole vault performance at the state meet came as a surprise to him. After a spring of wet, raw, windy weather, he didn’t expect to come close to the all-time Maine record. “I didn’t get much practice leading up to that,” he said. “It really shouldn’t have happened.”

He was also running back and forth between the hurdles – he won the 110 hurdles in 15.15 seconds and the 300 hurdles in 40.70 seconds – and the long jump. “I was breathing heavy all day,” he said.

Snyder’s success in the pole vault didn’t end with the state meet. He also won the event at the New England championships (16-0) and was third at the New Balance national meet (16-5 1/4) to earn All-America honors.

“I was pretty happy with the season,” said Snyder. “I wish I had jumped 17 feet, but it didn’t happen. And that’s OK.”

Ryder thinks that’s just a matter of time.

“If we had had a true Maine spring with good weather, he would have gone over 17 feet,” said Ryder, a 2002 Thornton graduate. “I think in college, he could legit be close to the 19-foot mark. The big thing is to stay healthy. He’s still growing into his body. I think he’s going to blossom.”

Snyder will attend the University of Connecticut, where he will join close friends Matt Brady (Biddeford shot putter) and Sam Rusak (Scarborough pole vaulter). He intends to compete as a decathlete. “I like to vary what I do,” said Snyder. “I don’t like to just be doing one thing at a time.”

Snyder actually began preparing for the decathlon this year. Thornton Coach George Mendros said Snyder competed in the javelin, discus and 1,600 along with his regular events. “And he didn’t just walk into those events and do them,” said Mendros. “He would work those events to make sure he had a good background in them.”

As successful as he was in his events, Snyder said he’ll remember his high school career mostly for his teammates.

“We hung out a lot and really cared for each other,” he said. “I would call them my brothers.”

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