By MELANIE BRIDGE
Seventy-eight years after being given the right to vote, women have broken another barrier; they’ve been given permission to pole vault.
“It was not thought that women had the upper-body strength to pole vault,” said women’s track Coach R. Craig Poole.
Pole vaulting was one of those sports where the good old boys felt that it was something only men could participate in. Women showed they could do some things and the track and field community began to watch, said Poole.
Before becoming a college sport, it had to be accepted on an international level. For the last three or four years women have been pole vaulting at different meets. Last year it was an official sport at the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships and Indoor Track and Field Championships according to women’s throwing Coach Richard Legas.
This year Legas is learning how to coach pole vaulting for the BYU women’s track and field team. Coaching women is a different perspective with regards to upper body strength, strength to weight ratio and speed, Legas said.
“I did some pole vaulting because I was a decathlete, [but] this is the first time I’ve worked with women,” he said.
Pole vaulting is more than just going out and vaulting every day. The upper body must be very strong and unlike throwers, women pole vaulters must be very fit.
“Every ounce of excess doesn’t help them get over the bar,” Legas said.
Right now, BYU’s lone female pole vaulter seems to be learning the art just fine. Becky Jackson only needed one meet to provisionally qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Although her vault of 11-2 at Idaho State University Friday was not enough to automatically qualify her, Legas said he feels she will have no problem jumping significantly higher.
Pole vaulting looked like a lot of fun, so Jackson said she decided to try it when Poole asked for volunteers.
“It’s different and I like doing different things,” Jackson said. “No girls had done it before and that was motivation [for me].”
Jackson competed in pole vaulting some last year as an exhibition sport, but the highest she could ever clear was 9-6.
“That was OK, but it wasn’t great, so this year I decided to put more emphasis on it,” Jackson said.
Jackson attributes her accomplishments this year to a variety of different people.
“(Coach) Poole has been a great support getting me the equipment I need including buying new poles,” Jackson said.
Poole agrees that he has spent a lot of money helping Jackson to improve, but it has paid off. Jackson outgrew a new pole in one week because her technique changed so drastically.
New poles are very important to the sport of pole vaulting and each pole is longer and heavier. Once an athlete has cleared the highest they can with one pole, it is important to have a longer one so they can continue to improve.
Others that Jackson attributes her accomplishments to are the men’s pole vault coach and the pole vaulters on the men’s track and field team.
“I owe all my accomplishments to the men’s pole vaulters,” Jackson said. “They come out early and stay late. If I didn’t have them coaching me I’d be lost.”
All the support has helped Jackson to achieve, but part of her success has come because she is a dedicated athlete.
“In my mind, Becky is one of these little gals that’s an over achiever [and] I don’t want to limit her [to a specific height],” Legas said.
Pole vaulting is a sport to keep a close watch on. It is a new women’s sport so the vaults will only go higher.
“The events will be exciting to watch because the records will break,” Legas said.