From the National Pole Vault Summit – Daily Blog Installment 1.

by Debra Chappell

Note to my faithful readers:  This space, From the Kitchen Counter, has been hijacked for the coming week and will be coming to you live as: “From the National Pole Vault Summit”.

Track & Field: National Pole Vault Summit

This is the time of year my two worlds collide.  My writer, gad-about, civilian, “normal” life (using that term loosely) meets my parallel universe – the whacky, intense, sometimes irrational, mostly obsessive/compulsive world and business which dominates the rest of my family (and their blackberries and iphones)  otherwise known as The Pole Vault.

imagesI will be posting live on the run-up to and during the entire Pole Vault Summit, depending of course on a variety of factors…namely how crazy things get, how much time I have, my mood and how much Chardonnay I’ve had the night before.

I am thankful and fortunate that readers from both my worlds visit this site regularly so I thought I would try to merge the two by presenting a laymen’s guide to the Pole Vault (for newcomers) through a “behind the scenes” look at the Summit (for the more rabid devotees.) So…let’s get started with Installment 1.

Let’s begin with some basic terminology for the uninitiated, PV 101 if you will:  If you’re Unknowngoing to sit around the pole vault pit (that being the large fat pillow-like landing area filled with foam), it’s helpful to have some jargon to toss around, even if you have no idea what it means. Believe me, after over 50 years as a casual observer it’s worked for me. I’m still not quite sure what half this stuff means but have found if you say it regularly and with confidence, you’ll not only be the life of the party but will have an eager audience of athletes at your feet thinking you possess the elusive secret to their next PR (personal record.)

But before we launch into the technical data, let’s just start with the equipment:


CIMG1605Implement used by athlete to ‘hurl’ themselves into the air (Note: UCS Spirit poles are the only ones you need to remember… white with pink labels. There are others…but their names somehow escape me at the moment.) When referring to this implement, always remember that pole is the noun, vault is the verb.  They are not called ‘pole vaults’. If you refer to them as such you’ll sound like a rookie.


Highly skilled athlete with exceptional speed, strength, coordination and timing precision.images-1  (Halfway coordinated crazy people who come barreling down the runway out of control with more guts than either common sense or technique are called something else…and it isn’t flattering.)  Once a vaulter, always a vaulter — once it’s in the blood, seems to be a lifelong affliction with no apparent cure.


images-3The barrier the vaulter tries to clear.  He/she is awarded 3 attempts to clear it at each successive height. If they miss 3 attempts in a row, they’re out of the competition. (This is usually accompanied by a variety of what I call “All Purpose Technical Terms” (or APTT, you’ll want to keep these handy) which include but are not limited to:  damn, oh crap, s***, f***,  expletive-of-your-choice.  Any of these suffice and you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about.


Sometimes referred to as uprights.  They come in a pair and hold up the crossbar. They images-2roll on wheels according to the position desired by vaulter.  *Tip: If vaulter requests standards “all the way forward”, take cover. If “all the way back”, get your camera out.


This is where the vaulter *plants his pole at the end of runway, just before taking flight.  (*Plant to be covered in subsequent blog.) Some vaulters may inadvertently land here…refer to APTT in prior paragraph.


Should be self explanatory though inevitably some poor sod unwittingly wanders across it hoping to catch the finish of the 4 X 4 Relay… just as the vaulter is hitting full stride.  Again, refer to APTT, only now it’s in capital letters typed in bold  as in:  “HOLY S***”!!!

That is enough for one sitting. Now that the basics are out of the way, tomorrow I will cover some of the latest activities of Summit staff and management in their planning and training for the upcoming event, and if I haven’t lost you altogether by then, some additional terminology on proper vault technique (most of which sounds like it came straight out of the Kama Sutra.)

See you right back here  “From the National Pole Vault Summit” ….

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