A friend of mine pole vaulted in high school and has recently started competing again. This sport has taken him to competitions and meets all over the place, most recently in South Florida. I went to watch, and possibly learn a thing or two about the pole vault.
I have no patience for poorly organized events, and unfortunately, this was one of those meets. I expected a crowd, and multiple events going on simultaneously. Instead, I arrived at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar to find my friend camped out under an umbrella, and the pole vaulters taking some practice runs. Then we waited.
The pole vault competition was supposed to start at 1 PM, conveniently enough at the hottest point of the day. I expected to see thirty or forty people, lined up with giant poles, waiting to fly over a bar eleven-plus feet off the ground. Instead, I saw a total of seven vaulters: six college students, and my friend who dubbed himself “the old guy“.
And we waited. For what? I have no idea. There was no reason for the competition to start late, as the officials were there, the competitors were there, and the spectators (both of us) were there. But we continued to wait, for hours on end. Around 3:00 PM they started getting ready to think about possibly starting, eventually.
Meanwhile, I learned quite a bit. Did you know the poles used in vaulting are different lengths and vary in flexibility? I’m still not quite sure when you would want to use the stiffer one or the more flexible one. I also learned that it is possible to still get sunburned while sitting under an SPF50 umbrella. Oops.
Finally, the competition began. As there were so few competitors, the first two started, with the bar at a height of eight feet. They get three tries, and if they complete the jump they can move on to the next height. There was some confusion among the competitors and officials converting from meters to feet, (half an hour of my life I will never get back) but eventually we moved on to eight feet, six inches. One of the two failed to complete the jump, and the other was out when the bar moved to nine feet.
At long last, the bar was moved to ten feet and another competitor stepped up,along with my friend. The old guy made it look easy while the woman attempting the ten-foot jump failed after three attempts. Next, the bar moved up six inches, but the old guy was the only one competing, so he took two attempts and made it over. At eleven feet, he was still the only one competing and by eleven and a half feet, was required to attempt the jump several times in a row with no break in between. The circumstances were not set up for success, and he did not make the eleven and a half-foot jump. There is always next time.
Meanwhile, the last competitors began their jumps at twelve feet. The first guy made it look easy, but as it was not three and a half hours after the posted start time, and I had seen my friend’s impressive vaults, it was time for me to exit. I am looking forward to watching another competition that is better organized.