Pole Vault Championships return to Old Town Clovis

Garrett Starkey from Arizona State clears a bar at the North American Pole Vault Association Championships, held in Old Town Clovis on July 20 for the 24th straight year, coinciding with the Friday Night Farmers Market. (Photo contributed by Gardenia Centenaro)

For the last 24 years a strip of Old Town Clovis has been transformed into a runway lined with frenzied fans cheering on pole vaulters, both elite and local.

On July 20, the North American Pole Vault Association (NAPVA) once again descended upon Pollasky Avenue, on a night coinciding with Friday Night Farmers Market, providing a fun and festive, and yes, a competitive flare on a hot day that turned into a pleasant evening.

Clovis has become “The heart of American pole vaulting” according to meet co-director Bob Fraley, who coached track and field for 28 years at Fresno State before retiring in 2008.

When the event first moved to Clovis in 1995, American pole vaulting was on a downswing but today, with the NAPVA Championships in Clovis one of the main reasons, America is back on top of the world.

In fact, all five U.S Olympic Pole Vault Medalists in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games competed in Clovis.

Brooke Tjerrild, a 2017 Clovis North grad, cleared 12’6” at the Street Vault in Old Town Clovis on Pollasky Ave. Tjerrild had a successful freshman season at Cal Poly, clearing 13 feet 7.25 inches, just ¾ off the school record.

The local flavor consisted of Brooke Tjerrild, a 2017 Clovis North grad who now attends Cal Poly and Clovis West senior Elizabeth Funk, both participating for Team Clovis.

“It’s feels great to be home and have a bunch of familiar faces cheering you on,” said Tjerrild who cleared 12 feet 6 inches. “There’s some Clovis magic here and it definitely helps you.”

Tjerrild placed second at the 2017 CIF State Track and Field Championships and qualified for USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics last summer. This year at the Cal Poly ShareSLO Invitational on March 24, she cleared 13 feet, 7.25 inches, just ¾ inches off the school record.

“It’s a great learning experience and a great meet,” Tjerrild said after finishing the event. “More than anything it makes me want to get better for next year.”

Funk, who won the 2018 CIF Central Section Masters with a jump of 13 feet, cleared 12 feet.

Overall, there were six teams of four competitors: Clovis, Hanford, Turlock, Los Angeles, Phoenix, SoCal Beach Cities and Team Rising Stars.

Clovis is one of five sites that hold competitions that provide exposure for the event and vaulters in a unique environment. Street vaults are also held in the French Quarter in New Orleans, a mall inside the Santa Anita Fashion Park in Arcadia, during the Fourth of July Festival in Seattle and in Old Town Sacramento.

Kristen Hixson from Grand Valley State won the Elite Women’s division with a jump of 14’6” and Audie Wyatt from Texas Tech finished at 17’6” to win the men’s competition.

Despite being somewhat disappointed with her vaults, Tjerrild had a great experience.

“It’s a little intimidating with that many people looking at you but it’s a lot of fun to hear the whole crowd rooting for you,” Tjerrild added. “They don’t care what team you are or what color jersey you wear – they just want you to get over the bar.”