By Becca Peter of @PoleVaultPower
The 2018 UCS/Spirit National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada, featured some of the best elite performances in the event’s 28-year history, including world-leading marks by Mondo Duplantis and Sandi Morris.
But athletes and coaches were disappointed to learn a few days later that the elite men’s results would not count.
In 2003, the IAAF changed the standard length of the pegs that the pole-vaulting crossbar rests on from 75mm to 55mm. The entire world adopted this change except the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH), which oversees high school track and field in the United States.
This has occasionally caused elite pole vaulters in the United States to compete with the wrong pegs; consequently, those marks are not accepted. But these instances have been rare, and haven't ever been an issue at the Pole Vault Summit — until this year, that is.
A mistake was made. The standards for Pit 2, the pit the elite men used, had 75mm pegs installed on the top. The elite women on Pit 1 pole vaulted with the correct 55mm pegs.
The consequences of this mistake are wide-ranging.
The 5.83m (19’1.50”) world junior record by Mondo Duplantis was already unlikely to be ratified by the IAAF because doping control was not present on site. IAAF rules require an immediate test, and they did not ratify his best indoor mark last year for the same reason.
At the Summit, Mondo was drug-tested by USADA the next morning, which satisfies the requirements for a Swedish indoor record — one that will now fail to be ratified because the pegs were too long. However, the jump does still count as a new high school indoor record.
Likewise, Sondre Guttormsen’s 5.49m (18’0”) vault still counts as a California high school indoor record, but will fail to be ratified as a Norwegian junior record.
Devin King, who competes for Southeastern Louisiana University but is redshirting indoors, achieved the qualifying standard for the world indoor championships of 5.78m (18’11.50”), but the mark is now invalid. Heartbreakingly, he did not touch the bar on any of his jumps until the height he exited the competition, and did not gain any advantage from the longer pegs.
USATF-qualifying performances by Scott Houston, Tray Oates, Nate Richartz, Austin Miller, Cole Walsh, and Logan Cunningham were also affected. Houston and Oates already have qualifying marks from earlier meets, but the other athletes must achieve the standard of 5.45m (17’10.50”) or better by February 11.
In an email to the affected athletes and coaches, USATF pole vault development chair Brian Yokoyama apologized, took responsibility for the mistake, and promised changes would be made to prevent mistakes in the future.
At an event as large as the Pole Vault Summit — with 80 competitions divided among 15 pits — many people are involved with the setup and management of the event. While the peg length seems obvious through a photographer’s zoomed-in lens, it isn't as easy to notice from a distance, especially if there is no reason to suspect there may be a problem.
Although the elite men’s marks from this competition will not count, all of the affected athletes showed great form, and seem likely to surpass these performances throughout this indoor season.