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Boyer, Scott lead charge to make pole vault a scored event

April 28, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Pole vaulting is such a fixture in track & field that not even the waves in Ocean City, Md., could wash it away.

There are too many anchors to the event, including two big weights locally.

Seemingly swayed by a powerful presentation by Middletown track coach Don Boyer and Boonsboro track guru Dwight Scott, the MPSSAA Board of Control voted 29-24 at its beach meeting Friday to reinstate pole vaulting as a scoring event for indoor and outdoor track next school year - a year after it was all but wiped out.

"They prepared a power-point presentation about the vault and reasons for keeping it," said North Hagerstown principal and Board of Control member Bo Myers. "People came in and were ready to say, 'Let's eliminate it,' but after the presentation, there was quite a lengthy discussion about it, one of the longest we've ever seen."

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"I tried to make it personal so they could relate to it, and I had my facts straight," said Boyer. "They knew I had done my research. There wasn't much that they could argue."

Pole vaulting went to the top of the endangered species list in Maryland last year when the National Federation of State High School Associations set new safety standards for landing pads that most of the state's schools didn't meet.

The immediate call for change was largely due to three separate pole-vaulting related deaths in the U.S. last year, the increased heights being reached by vaulters, the recent addition of pole vaulting to girls events and an apparent lack of qualified coaches, said Yogi Martin, Supervisor of Athletics and Physical Education for Washington County.

"There was great concern that something needed to be done for safety," said Smithsburg track coach Ray Shriver. "The national federation said, effective immediately, all landing systems had to be a larger size (at least 19 feet, 8 inches by 20 feet, 3 inches). Usually when there's a rule change, they phase it in over a couple of years, but this was effective immediately. It was a knee-jerk reaction."

The MPSSAA Board of Control's immediate reaction was to eliminate pole vaulting as a scoring event for region and state meets, seemingly in an attempt to phase out the event altogether.

"All of the sudden, bang, it was eliminated," said Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff. "I understand their concern for safety and their doing what they think is best. But just saying, cold turkey, that it's no longer a scored event without getting much input from the coaches was ... it caught a lot of people off guard."

Pole vaulters haven't stopped competing. They just haven't been able to score points for their teams, which has been the case for all meets in this area.

"Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties took it a step further and said that if the state's not going to count it, then we're not going to count it for anything," Shriver said.

"We decided to do exactly what the state did to be fair," said Martin. "We had only one school, North High, that met the standards."

But now Washington County is setting the standard. On Monday, the county will become the first in the state to have all of its schools certified with legal-sized landing pads. Shriver said most of the schools' upgrades were funded by a Smithsburg donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

"It's really a feather in the cap for Washington County. It puts us head and shoulders above everybody else," said Shriver. "But Washington County and Frederick County are the two leaders of pole vaulting in the state. They've produced more quality pole vaulters per capita than any other area in the state.

"It is definitely one of those sports where the emotions run deep. If you're a vaulter, it's very important to you and that's why there was such an outcry."

It was heard loudly Friday, just as it might be next April. Pole vaulting only received a one-year reprieve.

Martin said the Board of Control, of which he's also a member, is currently establishing a committee to study all the components of pole vaulting. Any new insight will be laid back on the table at next spring's meeting.

"We're certainly in favor of taking a look at this whole thing," said Martin.

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