From the National Pole Vault Summit – Installment 4.

by Debra Chappell


I apologize for not posting yesterday, was running around like a mad woman and the day got away from me. By the time I finally sat down at the laptop late last night, I found my brain disengaged and the Sauvignon Blanc calling from the kitchen. Since the Summit (and ensuing mayhem) officially begins this evening with The Hall Of Fame Dinner, I chose to turn in and get a few hours of sleep ‘cause god knows that will be pretty scarce over the next 3 days!

So here’s a re-cap of yesterday, as far as I can tell. (Everyone was running in a million different directions so I’m not entirely sure…)

photo copy 3Mike picked up the Brazilians in San Francisco and drove them to Carson City for tour of the Spirit factory. (that would be Fabiana Murer , Olympian and former World Champion along with her entourage and a television film crew.) Steve was in Reno all day meeting with various contingencies and other athlete arrivals including Olympic Gold Medalists Jenn Suhr and Renauld IMG_4253Lavillenie. Chris was running around somewhere I presume but we lost touch completely after 10:00 Tuesday night.  And Jenn Venziano (the UCS Spirit office manager) has been holding down the fort in the meantime, keeping the whole thing together and on schedule, including the complaint and Summit Eve stupid question desk (ie: “we’ve paid for our airline tickets, booked our hotel room, shipped our poles, have purchased 2 day ski passes at Heavenly and a spa day at Lake Tahoe, but silly us, forgot to register for the event.  Is it too late to register? …and oh, can you make that the 11:30 morning competition ‘cause I’ve got a pedicure at 10 and Bubba’s not an early riser ….”) The correct answer to which of course is “ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME?” and “HELL NO”, but she somehow keeps her cool and even demeanor and says politely “perhaps”, and “we’ll see what we can do.”  Whatever they’re paying her, isn’t enough in my book.

Additional Summit executive staff arrived yesterday too including Brian Yokoyama, Greg Hull and Bob Fraley.  These are the guys that have received more attention in my household lately than the dog and I combined.  They’ve been in constant contact with  Steve, Chris, and Lane for the better part of a month.  Every time I’ve called Spirit in the last few weeks Jenn says, “nope, he’s on the phone…conference call.”

—  “for how long?”

 “going on three hours now”

(Geesh…guys on the phone for 3 hours and it’s called a ‘conference call’, when I’m on the phone that long it’s considered a gab-fest and eyes start rolling.)


Today, the remainder of staff, athletes, coaches and registered participants start arriving, and the entire Spirit operation moves to the host hotel, John Ascuaga’s Nugget. There will be several last minute trips to Kinko’s, Fast Signs, Staples, and Home Depot and probably more than a few to In and Out Burger.

If you’re new to the Summit, it can all be a little overwhelming at first so thought I’d take a moment to offer some tips for the unintiated – little hints to help you get around and heads up on what to expect. (I’m only trying to help you avoid Jenn’s desk.)

Pole Transport: 

CIMG1599Always some confusion about this one.  No, the Summit staff is not responsible for your poles.  They do offer transport from the airport to the arena (see Summit Courtesy Table at airport – key word there being ‘courtesy’), but ultimately it is up to the athlete to get them to the correct staging area. And just be forewarned, if you show up at the hotel with a loaded pole bag , the concierge will personally see to it that they’re confiscated immediately and put to use as speed bumps over in valet parking.

Again, the athlete is responsible for his/her own poles.  Not coach, not mom or dad, andimages-2 least of all the hotel or Summit staff. I once heard the great Sergei Bubka explain that he always took care of his own poles because he didn’t trust anyone else enough to do it for him.  I figure if one of the greatest vaulters of all time can schlepp around his own poles, so can a  140 lb.  11 footer from Dubuque.

Rental Cars, or specifically, renting a car that you want to tie poles on: 

I do not recommend showing up at the rental desk with poles in tow asking for a car with a roof rack “big enough to handle these”.  They’ll not only laugh you out of the building, but in no time you’ll find yourself out $100 bucks trying to bribe the hotel shuttle bus driver for a ride.

My suggestion is to send your coach/training partner/mom/dad to the rental deskIMG-20130115-00038 copy while you high tail it over to the parking garage to find a nice dark spot to wait with your cargo.  While the car is being rented you can catch up on the latest blogs in Track and Field News completely out of sight of the rental agent and additional insurance cost consideration.  For tips on tying poles onto car, see facebook and youtube, it has now been elevated to a creative artform with a few dedicated websites.

And finally, the host Hotel/Casino:

Reno is a 24 hour town. This can be a real trap for Summit newcomers.  If it’s not the black jack tables that get you, it’s the old friends at the bar you haven’t seen since you competed against them at the Drake Relays in 1975.  Before you know it, entire days have slipped by and you haven’t made it over to the arena.

My advice is to check in at the front desk, keep your head down, and walk as quickly as possible through the casino to the elevators…looking up for no one, NO ONE!  ‘Cause once you do…man, you’re toast.

That’s it for now From the Pole Vault Summit. We’ll see ya’ll tonight at the Hall of Fame Dinner (or after in the bar if you didn’t follow above instructions) and hopefully in this space tomorrow if I don’t get too sidelined tonight.

Gotta run, my phone is ringing.  It’s probably my friend Paige with our morning “conference call”.

Track & Field: National Pole Vault Summit