The Gift Of A Meet

Bluebird skies greet the first track and field competition in Colorado in a long while on Saturday.

For a few of the longsuffering, Saturday came like drenching rain on a parched land.

In a state where there hasn't been a track meet, of any sort, since March 12, Above the Bar Track Club hosted their first Churchyard pole vault meet of the summer on Saturday. Just holding the meet qualifies it as a success, but the successes went beyond that.

With it came masks, social distancing, lots of hand sanitizer, but, mostly, real competition.

In addition to offering the first competition in more than two months, John Carmony of Above the Bar saw it as an opportunity to set the meet calendar in motion and show both how and that it can be done. "The kids have lost so much already. We are hoping to have a club meet every other week to get the kids back in the vault groove," Carmony offered as a measure of ongoing hope.

Back in the vault groove, he says? Yes, back in the vault groove.

Normally, the Churchyard meets for which the club is justifiably famous boast some rather spectacular marks. Spectacular, though, was in short supply on Saturday as the vaulters were just working out some of the kinks that attend enforced idleness. Results resembled early season performances for most athletes.

Hunter Potrykus posted the top boys marks at just over 14 feet. Will Chiang was the only other competitor above 13 feet. Megan Kelleghan, who just finished her freshman year at Silver Creek, landed the top girls mark at 11-7. Kourtney Rathke continued to impress with an 11-1 clearance in the 13-14 age group.

As newsworthy as the competition this time around were the lengths ATB went to to pull the meet off.

ATB pole vault competitions at the Churchyard have a few advantages to help get the season started under the current shadow of coronavirus cautions. First, pole vault as an individual sport has no contact between competitors and the Churchyard meets only have the one event. Second, the Churchyard has a large field with room for everyone to spread out. The vault club has two pits, one for warm-ups and the other for the competition, so there are never very many kids and officials or coaches in one area.

Meet size was another restriction. Numbers were limited, and ATB kept this one to just their own club members. But for a nod to caution and doing things with extra care, ATB almost certainly could have had in excess of 50 vaulters at the meet. There really is that much pent up frustration. Everyone with a pole right now wants to come to a meet--somewhere, almost anywhere.

For the next meet, ATB will accept entries from high school vaulters who are looking to put up marks for next fall's college recruiting season (boys 14'+, girls 11'+).

Activity at either pit was limited to nine vaulters and one coach. And it was rare, of course, that nine vaulters were ever active at the same height. One pit was used for competition, the other for warm-ups.

Face masks were the recommended order of the day except for officials working the pits and when competitors were vaulting. Social distancing to six feet? Check. It was all outside as well, under brilliant sunshine, where the virus is not reputed to have a very robust a half life.

Parents and spectators were kept to a separate area. Not surprisingly, after all everyone has been through the last two months, the level of cooperation on that front was high. All competitors were urged to bring hand sanitizer.

In the end, it worked. 27 high school and middle school vaulters competed, all getting marks. Some of those marks came in first-ever meet experience.

A lot of questions were answered on Saturday. A few more remain. Perhaps we really will see some meet action yet this summer, and meet action of the full track and field variety, as folks figure out ways to get it done. In any case, the first water is now over the dam.