What’s it feel like to pole vault?
Like a roller coaster ride or like being in a sling shot or like bungee jumping.
Is it hard?
Yes! Pole vaulting is considered the third most difficult skill to master behind hitting a 95 mph fast ball and driving a race car at 200 mph. But you’re not free to mosey out to try the first two, and you can have a lot of fun learning how to pole vault.
Poles are hollow and weigh about 5 lbs.
Poles are rated for a vaulter’s weight, with poles made for athletes weighing 80 to over 220 lbs. Advanced vaulters go on poles rated well above their weights. For instance, an advanced athlete weighing 145 lbs may go on a pole rated for 170 lbs. This provides more spring action, propelling them higher into the air.
Poles come in lengths from 10’ to 17’ in 6” increments. Novice vaulters use small poles. With improvement, vaulters “move up poles” (go on longer poles).
Pole vaulting was one of only 7 events contested in the first modern Olympics.
Pole vaulting is considered a vertical jump. That’s both because it’s about going high and because a vaulter must actively jump off the ground rather than let the pole do the work.
Vaulters pay attention to highway overpass heights. No one tells them to do this; it just happens.
The world’s best vaulters have been 23 – 40 years old, up until the past four years. Now some teenagers are among the world’s best.
The prestigious height for elite males is 6-meters (19’8.25”) and for elite women 5 meters (16’4.75”). Only 24 men and 3 women have met these marks. Dexter vaulters have vaulted or attended clinics with 5 of the men (Jeff Hartwig, Tim Mack, Brad Walker, Toby Stevenson), and one of the women (Jenn Suhr).
Girls and women didn’t start vaulting ‘officially’ until 1992. The first Olympics to have women’s pole vault was in 2001. The Gold was won by Stacy Dragila. There are American and World records for women’s vault in the 85 year age class.
There are many Master’s vaulters in Michigan age 25–80+. Two have had world records for their age divisions.
Up until the 80’s, Americans dominated vaulting. The Soviet Union and then Russia dominated in the 80’s and 90’s. Europeans and Americans are now dominant, but South America and Asia are gaining.
Poles cost $340-$700, pits cost over $17,000, standards cost $2,000-$5,000. So vaulting is more expensive than tennis or basketball, but far less expensive than a private flight into outer space, buying a Caribbean island, or putting a child through college.
Before the 60’s, poles were aluminum or bamboo. Aluminum poles didn’t bend, but vaulters went 15’ with them. Bamboo poles bent a little and broke a lot. Poles have been made of fiberglass since the 60’s. Some now incorporate a compound used in bullet-proof Kevlar.
Foam pits have been used since the 60’s. Beforehand, vaulters landed in sawdust. Learning how to land was an important skill back then.
The Reno Vault Summit occurs yearly in January. Over 2000 vaulters attend, with vault competitions for every age bracket, and clinics for every skill level including a clinic for parents. There is an elite competition, after which you can go down on the floor and meet the elites and have them sign your shirt.
Because pole vaulting is expensive and considered dangerous, many states or schools have pulled vaulting from their curriculum. The sport’s survival and popularity are largely due to a network of coaches and athletes who have created hundreds of vault competitions, clubs, seminars and conferences around the country. Dexter makes its contribution by hosting a Dexter Days vault, by attending the Reno and Akron vault summits, and by competing in up to ten vault competitions in the Summer and Winter.