The late Dennis Hancock loved Monroe City athletics. But when it came to track and field, the legendary coach, volunteer and official didn't mind which school athletes hailed from. Especially when it came to those in the pole vault event.
Just ask Palmyra.
When the school board decided to bring back the event at Palmyra three years ago, the Panthers coaching staff didn’t have much knowledge in the event.
So Hancock offered his expertise.
His son, Brian, was not only the pole vault record holder at Monroe City but also held the state record in the event.
Needless to say, Palmyra was more than willing to accept Hancock’s offer to help out.
"I simply cannot say enough about that guy," Palmyra boys track and field coach Kevin Miles said of Hancock, who passed away in 2015. "He didn’t care what school you went to, he just had a love for the track, the love for pole vault. You just don’t have many guys like that in the world today."
And it didn’t matter if he coached at an arch rival.
"Palmyra and Monroe is one of the biggest rivals around," Miles pointed out. "But Dennis didn’t care about the color of the jersey. All he cared about was helping kids."
One of the kids Hancock helped was Trenton Manning.
"Coach Hancock taught me everything about the event," the now Palmyra senior said. "He taught us all the basics. It was just really nice of him to take his time to help us out when he didn't have to. I am really just at a loss of words."
Hancock did more than just teach. He also gave to the Palmyra program.
"When we first brought back the event, we didn’t have poles," Miles recalled. "Dennis loaned us some poles to work with. Whatever we needed he was more than happy to help with. You just couldn’t ask for a greater individual."
And it wasn’t just athletes who Hancock helped. He also played a vital role in the development of current Palmyra pole vaulting coach Darin Redd.
The 1999 Palmyra graduate holds the current pole vault record. But Redd admits he didn’t know much about the event when he was brought on the coaching staff three years ago.
"I vaulted in high school but we didn’t have a (vaulting) coach and the Internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now," the Panthers record holder said. "I guess you can say I did OK, but my form and technique was off. Dennis taught me how to teach all the fundamentals and gave me a lot of tips on the event."
Redd -- whose record is 12 feet, 6 inches -- also echoed the same sentiments as Miles when it comes to speaking of Hancock’s generosity.
"It says a lot about his legacy," Redd noted. "He was a great man, a great human being by willing to help anyone regardless of who you compete for or against. He just loved the sport."
Redd has a son, Dylan, who is a pole vaulter for Palmyra. Dylan also learned a couple things from Hancock.
"He showed us a lot of the fundamentals and how important it is to study your vaults on video and also watch videos of others," the Palmyra freshman said.
The younger Redd also runs sprints for the Panthers, but mentioned vaulting is by far the toughest of his events.
"If you are not prepared to put in the work, you are not going to be good at it," he said. "It’s one of the hardest events to do, but it's my favorite and it’s fun to do."
Fun is something the elder Redd mentioned he also learned from Hancock.
"I think the biggest thing I learned from him was you have to have fun with it," the coach said. "It's great to be successful but if kids are not having fun doing it they are not going to stick with it."
Brian Hancock’s mark of 16-4 in the 2006 state meet still holds as the state record in the event. From Monroe City Brian went on to compete at the University of Missouri, where he also holds indoor records. He now is a coach at Columbia Battle High School.
Hancock’s school record no longer stands as 3-time state champion Chase Pennewell broke the mark last season. The now University of Kansas freshman broke the record last year, fittingly enough, during the Dennis Hancock Invitational by clearing 16-4 ¾.
Although the Palmyra vaulters may not be ready for those kind of marks anytime soon, they do have their sights on one record.
"Right now my best jump is 10-6, but I am going for the (school) record," Manning said with a smile. "I hope to get there soon."
With the knowledge gained from the late Hancock in addition to the guidance of coach Redd, the Palmyra record may fall sooner than later.
"We have a few kids who are more than capable of breaking the record," coach Redd said. "I see multiple jumpers who can break it with hard work. It’s been fun watching their progress."
That is something Miles is also excited about.
"When you think of how it all developed, it’s just pretty sweet," the Palmyra head coach said. "We will forever be indebted to coach Hancock."