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My History Setting Record

At first, I thought this story had nothing to do with the triathlon, but then I realized it has everything to do with it. The other day my parents told me they had chatted with my high school track coach, Keith Spraugh. He told them my conference pole vault record of 13′ 1″ set in 1980 will never be broken. That’s because the conference has just been disbanded.

First, I didn’t know my record was 13’1″. I was sure I jumped 13’6″ at regionals my senior year so I don’t know where they got 13″1″. But I won that meet with that jump to go on to the state finals. It’s easily my biggest sports moment in high school. I placed a disappointing 9th at state that year. I had started the year with the goal of winning the state championship. I even dropped varsity basketball that year as starting point guard to train the entire year for the pole vault.

Second, I knew I had the school record but assumed someone had beaten it by now. And I had no idea it has been the league record for the past 28 years! 13 feet is really not very impressive. But I attended a small private parochial Class C school, so the competition was not that great. My twin brother and I were the only two kids that could jump over 12 feet in our league and we were unbeaten our junior and senior year.

The sad story is that my high school in a Detroit suburb closed its doors a few years ago, a sure sign of troubled times in Michigan. Now to hear the entire conference has ended is a real reflection of a depressed economy in Michigan.

But just to put my accomplishment in perspective, the national high school record is 18’3″. Top high school kids today regularly vault over 17 feet. In 1980, my senior year, the world record was 18″11 1/2″. The world record is still held by Sergey Bubka of Ukraine with a vault of 20 feet 1 3/4 inches. Bubka entered the world stage the year after I graduated from high school, and went on to break the world record an unbelievable 35 times.

So what does this have to do with the tri? I realized I’ve had a work ethic since high school. I’ve never been an exceptional athlete. I just work harder than most people, and triathlon is just a ton of work. Except for the decathlon, the pole vault requires more cross-training than any other event. So it comes as no surprise to me after all these years that I decided to do the tri.

Still, I’m amazed I’ve held a record for 28 years and didn’t know it. And it will never be broken. That’s kind of cool.

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