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PV Starting Heights
Joined: May 2010
Does anyone have any thoughts as to what pole vault starting heights should be at varsity meets? This is mostly addressed to class 4/5 meets. I coach at a class 5 school, but I think the discussion is valid for smaller schools as well. I have noticed over the last few years the propensity to start, even larger invitational meets, at too low of a starting height in the pole vault. I’ve been to varsity invites where girls vault starts at 6’ and guys vault starts 7’6. I understand the necessity to pick a starting height that allows for all entered athletes to participate, but at some point picking such low starting heights favors the lower level athlete over the top tier pole vaulters. When you have a top tier vaulter warm up for an hour with the vault participants and then sit for several hours before they can come in, it really inhibits their performance. The low starting heights also make the pole vault competition drag on. I’ve been at meets when I’ve had to pull a top tier pole vaulter off the runway to run in the 4x4. In my opinion guys varsity vault should never start lower than 10’6 and girls varsity vault should never start lower than 8’. I don’t want to seem like a jerk at coaches’ meetings pushing for higher starting heights, but something has to change as low starting heights are damaging to our top tier pole vaulters. Another way to look at it is the district qualifier in the PV for class 5 is 13’9. If we start at 7’6, That is roughly 6 feet below what the top tier jumpers in the state can do. This is 12 heights total. The district standard in the high jump is 6’3. If we see start 12 heights below below 6’3 we are looking at an opening height of 4’3. I haven’t been to any varsity level high jump competition that starts at 4’3. So why do we do similar things to our pole vaulters?
Joined: Apr 2009
Coach, The starting heights for all vertical jumps are predetermined by the Games Committee ( 2018 NFHS track & field rules book page 14 j ). The typical procedure is to determine from the entries received, the 8th best mark and start the HJ at 4" below that performance in the HJ and 12" below the 8th best in the PV. This procedure is also listed on page # 15, item R-10 in the 2018 MSHSAA Track & Field Manual. Some years at the State Meets there were only 8 competitors that cleared the opening height in the HJ. The Games Committee may decide what height to start the vertical jumping events or changes due to weather conditions. Should you feel this vertical jump procedures should be changed, contact the MSHSAA track & Field Advisory Committee member in your area and have this item placed on the annual agenda for discussion. Hope this helps. Ron Whittaker State Meet Referee
Joined: May 2008
I feel your pain coach. Early in the season I try to be flexible, but typically the PV coaches want to carry that late into the season as well so their athletes can clear a height. I often see a problem when JV and Varsity is competing at the same meet at the same time. I am a proponent of a Varsity competition being just that, but I also understand going by the 8th best entry per the rules. It is frustrating for the better vaulters and more than a few times the meet is long over and the PV is still going on. I'm not sure there is a great fix other than at top flight meets setting the standard that it is just that and the meet managers not budging in those situations. Going back to a schedule with the traditional dual or tri meet for JV athletes during the week could also help with this. We have tried to do that as much as possible.
Joined: May 2013
I agree 100% that some of the starting heights are a way to low. Last year at the GAC South Conference Meet, the rest of the meet was over and our girl hadn't even entered yet. I understand what the rules are, but as coaches I feel like we could self police this more by not entering 7 foot vaulters in Varsity meets. I understand that the coaches who do are trying to get reps for their athlete, but a Class 4 or 5 School should be entering those kids on JV.
Joined: Sep 2007
We have had some varsity meets where they go up a foot after the first height. This has allowed the vaulters to clear a height and then thin the field down fairly quickly. Our home meets have used the foot below the 8th competitor and it goes fairly quickly. The key for a fast event is the amount of time in between jumps that can speed up or slow down the event.
Joined: Sep 2007
Couldn't agree more. This drives me crazy, especially out here in Franklin County, but the same issues occur at the meets we attend in the city. We routinely go to medal meets where quite often the boys and girls only start 6" apart, many times at this meet there are several boys who have not started yet and the 4x4 has concluded. My opinion is that just being top 2 on a team doesn't necessarily make you varsity. I think varsity boys competitions should start no lower than 10'; girls should start no lower than 7'6" preferably 8'. I am aware that in some meets you may not fill out the places, but again, it is varsity, and to earn varsity points you should have a varsity mark. Two things happen here...get better or quit. Most kids want to get better, and when they realize they have to jump at a 10' bar then they and their coaches will/should change the way they practice. I do not blame the kids as much as I blame the coaches...if you have a boy that is jumping 7-8' why are you entering them in a varsity meet. And the argument that you want them to have a chance...they are getting a chance, at 10'.
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