By Johnny Martin | Reporter
The 23rd annual North American Pole Vault Championships returned to Old Town Clovis during the July 21 Friday night Farmers Market.
A pole vault runway was placed on Pollasky Avenue between 3rd and 4th streets to provide that intimate, up-close view for spectators and a fun-filled energy that helped the athletes soar to new heights.
“Have you been over there at 11 o’clock in the morning on Pollasky Avenue and looked around to see if you could find a parking place,” Co-Director Bob Fraley said. “That city is electrifying and I’m so thrilled to see the way that business organizations and the Chamber of Commerce have built it into a community. That’s why it’s so important to me to bring this event back to Clovis for now the 23rd year.”
Fraley, who spent 28 years as the Director of Track and Field at Fresno State, has been instrumental in returning the sport of pole vault to the City of Clovis and getting the sport out into the community.
Before his time at Fresno State, Fraley won 13 league track titles in 15 seasons at Lemoore High School, where he only lost two dual meets during that time. He was later inducted in the Lemoore High School Hall of Fame.
“In a lot of states they’re dropping the pole vault and a lot of schools are dropping it so we developed a strategy for success and I, as the Chair of Pole Vault Development, split the nation into eight different groups and we planted a seed to go around,” Fraley said. “We wanted to take it [pole vaulting] to the public and get these athletes to develop an emotional connection with the fans and help the sport grow.”
A total of 26 of the nation’s top pole vault athletes competed for the top prize in Clovis. Seven different teams were represented including Team Clovis, featuring recent Clovis North graduate Brooke Tjerrild, fresh off her second place finish at this year’s state track meet held at Buchanan High School.
Other local athletes in the event included Clovis West’s Elizabeth Funk (Team Hanford), Clovis High’s Mckenzie Shepard (Team West Regional Development), and recent Sierra High graduate and soon to be a Fresno Pacific Sunbird Chris Orange. Orange joined Tjerrild as a member of Team Clovis.
The women started the competition off at 9 1/2 feet while the men started at 12 feet. Alyssa Applebee, representing Team Los Angeles and Tulane University, dethroned three-year returning champion Brysun Stately of Team Sacramento with a jump of 14 feet to win the women’s division.
Four men made it to the height of 18 feet, but none of them could make it over the bar at that height on three attempts. Leading up to that point, Tray Oates of Team Sacramento was perfect in the competition, nailing all his jumps on the first attempt at each height, making him the winner of the men’s division.
“With that good of a field of guys I was kind of surprised, being clean in any competition is like your best dream come true, and with it being this late into the season honestly I was really surprised that I got that clean,” Oates said. “This is a great event, the crowd really gets behind you and I love that the kids are right there on the pit. I really like it out here and I love California and I want to move out here some day.”
Midway through the event, Fraley took some time to honor their “Parade of Champions,” featuring past athletes who made a difference in track and field and largely in the sport of pole vaulting. Some of the members honored include the family of the late John Wallace Franzman, who was an active leader in the community and the event, Greg Greeman for his impact in track and field and also his son winning the 2017 NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championship in pole vault.
The College of the Sequoias track and field team was also honored for its 2017 California Community College State Championship in track and field. Margot Kim from ABC30 Action News sang the national anthem to get the parade started.
“It’s just truly a great event and Bob Fraley is just a really committed coach to these vaulters and this event for sure would not happen if it wasn’t for him,” said Clovis Mayor Bob Whalen. “This is just a great community and Clovis just keeps turning out for these events and the best part is just seeing all these kids fired up.”