Pole Vaulting draws thousands to Old Town Clovis

April Steiner-Bennett prepares for her jump. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]

By Daniel Leon | Editor

The sport of pole vaulting made its way to Old Town Clovis Friday for the 22nd annual North American Pole Vault Association (NAPVA) Championships.

The event has come a long way since its debut in 1993. For the first two years, it was held inside a Southern California shopping mall before making its way to Clovis, where it holds an annual presence.

However, it was only suppose to be a one-time event held at the farmer’s market. No one pictured it would be such a big hit in the Clovis community, not even NAPVA president and director Bob Fraley.

“It’s hard to believe this event is still in Clovis, where it continues to grow,” Fraley said in a statement. “This NAPVA Championships has prospered into one of the largest events in the sport of track and field. The support of the Fresno-Clovis area fans, media and sponsors has helped push out nation’s top athletes to the top of the world.

“When the event first moved here, american pole vaulting was on a downswing, with only a few world-ranked pole vaulters. Today, America is on top of the world drawing tremendous amounts of new fans and athletes into this exciting sport. The NAPVA Championships in Clovis is one of the main reasons.”

The contest was composed of eight teams: Team Clovis, Team Hanford, Team Los Angeles, Team Phoenix, Team Provo, Team Reno, Team Sacramento and Rising Stars.

Local standouts were part of Team Clovis which included Kyle Scoletta, Shelby Noble, Louie Pancotti and Mallory Gilbert.

As the championships went on, the number participants started narrowing down with Gilbert being the last member from Team Clovis standing before eventually being eliminated. 

“Obviously I wanted [to jump] higher but I was just really grateful for the opportunity to come jump in front of friends and family,” Gilbert said. “The crowd is just so electric here that you can’t help but have fun.”

Gilbert, a University of Hawaii graduate that lives and trains out in Phoenix, added it was a good experience to come back home and compete in front of family and friends.

“It’s just been fun to be part of Team Clovis and represent my hometown,” Gilbert said.

Team Reno members Mike Arnold and April Steiner-Bennett took home the crowns for the men and women, respectively.

Past participants have went on to compete in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Alumni of the event include Clovis gold medalists Tim Mack (2004), Stacy Dragila (Stacy Dragila), Nick Hysong (2000) and silver medalists Toby Stevenson (2004) and Lawrence Johnson (2000).

“Clovis has become the heart of american pole vaulting,” Fraley said in a statement. “In Clovis, we have learned that the pole vault, if presented properly, can be a part of the modern sports culture.”

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