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Vaulters Soar at Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic

Release Date: June 11, 2024

Category: Blog | Athletics

In Northeast Ohio, it’s rare to get an opportunity to see elite pole vaulters in action, but on June 8, that opportunity happened with the staging of the first Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic. Spearheaded by reigning world and Olympic champion and TKFLASTANI Katie Moon, this was a three-hour vault fest featuring 11 elite vaulters from the USA and Canada competing at Katie’s alma mater, Olmsted Falls High School.

Why should you go to a pole-vault only meet?

Pole vault is just one of many events at a track and field meet (or athletics, as non-US countries call it), so why see one when you can see them all? Honestly, it was relaxing to be able to just focus on one event. Sure, when you have multiple events going on, there’s always something to watch–but you don’t always know where to look, meaning you probably miss a few cool things.

Here, it was all pole vault, all the time. No waiting for someone else’s race to finish or awards ceremony to end. It was just these women, the pole, and the bar — and a couple of thousand people on hand to see them. I got to understand the sport a lot better because I could focus on it.

Why is pole vault so complicated?

So many details go into a jump! First off, the weather is a big factor. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors — sunny and warm. But warm temperatures can affect how much a vault can take out of you. At the start of the meet, it was 77˚, with a Real Feel of 82˚, per AccuWeather. Later on, it clouded up and got cooler, which made vaulting (and spectating) more manageable. The wind was not bad either — just a slight crosswind. Windier conditions, a headwind or a tailwind can affect jumps.

Secondly, pole selection is key. As we learned from talking to Katie, vaulters have a wide range of poles, and they’ll switch out depending on how they’re feeling and what sort of spring they need to get from the pole. There were a lot of poles at this meet:

Many long canisters of pole vaulting poles.

Competitors’ poles

 

One of Gabriela Leon's poles, with notation on it.

One of Gabriela Leon’s poles, with notation on it.

 

4-door car with pole vault canister strapped to the roof. The canister's length goes from the front of the car grill to about 3 feet past the hatchback truck.

How pole vault poles travel.

 

Thirdly, the runway is way shorter than it looks in person. The run is one of the keys to being able to get off a good vault. At Olmsted Falls High School, the Katie Moon Pole Vault Run (yes, it was officially named for her at the meet!) is parallel to the end zone of the football field, but it doesn’t go the full width of a football field. In this competition, the women didn’t even use the whole runway for their attempts. Their ability to get up to top speed–while holding the end of a giant pole–is really impressive.

Fourthly, these athletes are in amazing shape. Pole vault requires an incredibly strong core, and here I saw abs for days. All of these women had amazing muscle tone, and they need all of it to run, vault, twist and try so hard to avoid hitting the bar.

Marissa Kalsey vaulting. She is still holding the pole but is upside down as she vaults upward in front of the bar.

Marissa Kalsey shows the strength it takes to make a vault.

Finally, the bar is really high. Sure, it looks pretty high on TV, but when you see it person, you get a better sense for how much the poles bend in gathering energy to propel the athlete upward. Then you see the height the bar is compared to how tall you are, and you realize that it takes a certain type of person to do this sport–and do it well.

What was the competition like?

As credentialed media, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Would we be sitting in the stands? Would we be far away? No! The competition was roped off from the crowd–they got to sit in the football end zone, going back into the field, and in the stands, if they wanted to be further from the action (or in some sort of shade). Media got to go under the rope. We were relegated mainly to the pit side of the competition, but I was still all of twelve feet from the bar. The first row of spectators was a few feet behind me, and they had a spectacular view. Those further back could watch on the jumbotron.

The crowd got spoiled by the amount of talent that was on hand–especially given that tickets were free. The field included three Olympians, athletes who had been to Olympic Trials, and athletes with outstanding college achievements. We got a good show from athletes who clearly love what they do–and appreciate their fellow competitors.

One of the great things about the crowd, was not just that they were supportive of all of the athletes (saying that Olmsted Falls is proud of Katie is an understatement), but also the number of young female vaulters there watching their heroes and learning from them. I chatted with a couple of high schoolers and their mothers who were behind me–one was from Indiana, and the other was from Utah (that’s right–they drove from Utah to watch this meet). They didn’t know each other before the meet and had a great time analyzing the jumps (and hopefully also answering my random questions).

The bar started at 4.18m and went up from there. The low point was the fact that Morgann Lelux-Romero had a tough meet and didn’t clear her opening height of 4.28m.

However, there were many high points. Marissa Kalsey made the Olympic Trial Qualifying Standard on the final day of qualifying, which means we’ll see her at Trials. That 4.48m jump was also a personal best for her!

Also, seeing Katie Moon jump in person helped me realize what makes her the best in the world. The focus and determination on her face are more apparent in person, as is the way she lines up for a jump and gets up to speed. She went for a season’s best and world lead jump–didn’t quite make it, but it was exciting to see her try!

Hopefully this event will come around again. If it does, I’d highly recommend coming to see it–but if not, check out a track and field meet near you and watch pole vaulting in person!

Katie Moon prepares to run down the pole vault runway.

Katie Moon dials it in before her attempt.

 

Katie Moon gets ready to start her run.

Katie Moon gets ready to start her run.

 

Olympic champion Katie Moon sails over the pole vault bar.

Katie Moon sails over the vault bar.

 

Katie Moon sits on the mat after a vault.

Katie Moon, post vault.

 

 

Katie Moon walks with a pole in hand.

Katie loves this sport!

 

 

Final results:

1. Katie Moon (USA) – 4.73m

2. Emily Grove (USA) – 4.58m

3. Chloe Timberg (USA) – 4.53m

4. Gabriela Leon (USA) – 4.53m

5. Marissa Kalsey (USA) – 4.48m

6. Kristen Leland (USA) – 4.38m

6. Anicka Newell (CAN) – 4.38m

8. Sydney Walter (USA) – 4.38m

9. Kristen Brown (USA) – 4.28m

10. Madison Wullfekotter (USA) – 4.28m

Morgann Leleux-Romero failed to clear 4.28m, her entry height.

–Jill Jaracz

Photos: Jill Jaracz