• There is a minimum starting height.**
    • For high school boys it’s usually 8’, and for high school girls it’s usually 6’.
    • For middle school boys it’s usually 6′, and for middle school girls it’s usually 5′.
    • Some Invitationals may have lower or higher starting heights.
    • States and Nationals have much higher starting heights.
  • The bar remains at a height until every competitor has either made the height, passed (see below), or failed to make the height (see below).
  • You can “pass” a height if you want. That means you can come in at a higher height than starting height. It can also mean that you can make a height, elect not to jump at the next height, and then come back into the competition at the subsequent height.
  • While there are 3 + competitors “in”, the bar is raised in 6” increments. Rules say you can never lower the bar unless it involves sudden-death tie breaking for 1st place (see below).**
  • You get three attempts to make a height. If you make a height before missing three times in a row, you can jump at the next height, where you get three attempts. You stay in the competition by successfully clearing the bar within three attempts.
  • Once you miss three times in a row, you’re out.
    • You can take 1 or 2 jumps at a height and then pass. However, you only get your 1 or 2 remaining jumps at the next height. In other words, missing 3 times in a row is what knocks you out.
    • Because the bar is raised until everyone is out, all pole vaulters ultimately fail three times in a row.
  • What counts as a miss
    • Knocking the bar off with your body or pole.**
    • Touching any part of the mats “behind the bar” with your body or pole.
      • “Behind the bar” defined: Imagine a vertical plane from the cross bar to the ground. The front side of the plane is the runway side of the facility, whereas the back side of the plane, behind the bar, is the mat side of the plane, i.e., where a vaulter typically lands after making a bar. 
    • Making the bar, but having your pole subsequently knock the bar off**–there are exceptions:
      • Counts as a make if you make an attempt to push your pole back towards the runway, but wind or mats cause your pole to move inwards and hit the bar off.
    • If your pole rests against the bar and doesn’t knock the bar off, and you grab your pole before an official says it’s okay to do so, it counts as a miss.**
    • If you don’t start down the runway before your allotted time runs out, it’s a miss.
      • You have 1 minute to start an attempt if > 3 competitors are in.
      • You have 3 minutes to start an attempt if there are 2 or 3 competitors left.
      • You have 5 minutes to start an attempt if you are the last competitor remaining.
      • NOTE: Once the cross bar is up and you have been called “up” by the official, your clock starts. To make sure you aren’t caught off guard, you may hear the official call “up”, “on deck”, and “on hold”. This alerts the two upcoming vaulters (“up” and “on hold”) that their turn is near, so they better get ready to go. It also helps the competition run faster. (Vaulting is notorious for being the last event to finish at a meet, especially at Dexter where we usually have a small country of athletes vaulting.)
    • If you leave the ground, but stay on the runway side of the bar and don’t knock the bar off, it
      • counts as a miss according to NFHS rules**
      • doesn’t count as a miss according to USATF rules
      • didn’t count as a miss according to NFHS rules in 2008.
  • Winning and placing are determined by
    • Who jumps the highest, second highest, third highest, etc.
    • If two jumpers are tied at a height, the winner is the person with fewer misses at that height.
    • If a tie still remains, the winner is the person with the fewest total overall misses.
    • If a tie still remains, then the vaulters tie; ties are not allowed for 1st place (see below).
    • If a tie occurs for 1st place (after accounting both for misses at the last height and for overall misses), a sudden-death jump-off takes place to determine the winner. Here’s how sudden death works.
      • 1. The jumpers get a 4th attempt at the last unmade height.
      • 2. If both jumpers make the attempt, thus remaining tied, the bar is raised 3″, and they each get one attempt at that height.
      • 3. If both jumpers miss that height, thus remaining tied, the bar is lowered 3″, and they each get one attempt at that height.
      • (2) and (3) are repeated as appropriate until there is a 1st place tie-breaker.
    • The number of athletes medaling and placing varies between meets. It can be as few as 3 and as many as 8 (maybe 10, but I can’t think of any off hand).

**I have further notes or opinions on things with asterisks. I’ll address these later (maybe) or talk to you about them face-to-face some time.