Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Female Athletes Are Discovering the Joys of Pole Vaulting

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Female Athletes Are Discovering the Joys of Pole Vaulting

Article excerpt

The pole vault has traditionally been a male-only event.

Until this year.

California, Montana and Oregon became the first three states to approve high school girls participating in the pole vault.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's about time," said Roger O'Sullivan, track coach at North Monterey County High in Castroville, Calif. "I think it's a reflection of the way we have viewed female athletes. Society changed and our perception in sports changed a little slower.

"It reminds me of the triple jump in the early '80s. That even was going through the same kind of change and I think California was one of the states then to lead the way. Prior to that, in the early '70s, it was the two-mile. Girls didn't run the two-mile because people thought it was too difficult for them."

"We have had a large boys (pole vault) program," said assistant coach Keith Condon, who handles the pole vaulters. "I have had a lot of girls who wanted to do it and I couldn't give them a good reason (why) they couldn't do it."

Reflecting on what might motivate the girls to participate in what may be the most difficult event in track and field, O'Sullivan said, "To make history, I think. The excitement of something new.

"We has just a good chunk of girls that wanted to learn it and attempt it. We only have one pure vaulter now. Most of the others do it as a secondary or third event. Most of the girls on our team that we've kind of encouraged to pole vault are a little bolder.

"Maybe it is also the challenge of being the first to do something. Remember, the girl who has the best vault this year will have the school record."

Condon has a different view.

"It is probably more of a primal thing," Condon said. "I think everybody's dream is flying - defying gravity. There is a point in the vault you are defying gravity. I think when you first feel that, it sticks for life.

"One of the first things that's going to kick in in the next couple of years is girls are going to start working more on upper-body strength. …

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