Athletes to Vie for Victory in Key West’s Pole Vault in Paradise
A riveting display of strength and speed awaits audiences in Key West Saturday, Jan. 6, as athletes including national and world champions compete in Pole Vault in Paradise under the island city’s subtropical sky.
Slated to take place at Key West High School’s new track at the Backyard Sports Complex behind the school, the all-day open-air challenge is sanctioned by USA Track and Field, commonly called USATF. Spectators can watch entrants ranging from youngsters to seniors vying for prizes and personal best vaults in youth, college, elite and masters categories.
“Pole Vault in Paradise is now on the World Athletics Calendar, which means marks established in Key West will count for American and international vaulters to qualify for the Olympics,” said Steve Hanes, president of the Key West Track & Field Club that produces the event.
Athletes expected to compete include Kat Stefanidi, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist and 2017 world champion; Tray Oates, first alternate for the 2016 Olympic team; Anicka Newell, a 2016 and 2020 Canadian Olympian and 2018 Canadian national champion; and Scott Houston, the 2019 U.S. national indoor champion.
“Although we feature elites, Pole Vault in Paradise is for all ages,” said Hanes, who has earned numerous vaulting honors including an age-group national record. “So far, our oldest competitor is 80 and the youngest is 14.”
Activities for athletes begin Friday, Jan. 5, with pole vault clinics from 10 a.m. to noon. An open practice and final registration are to follow, as is a 1-mile Conch Crawl race for vaulters and the public.
For Saturday’s competition, vaulters are to be placed in flights based on ability and starting heights, with flights to begin at approximately 9 a.m. Hanes anticipates eight total flights and the action continuing past 5 p.m.
Prize money awaits the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s open divisions. Additional cash prizes are to be awarded to all men and women who break the island records, which stand at 18 feet, 4.5 inches for men and 14 feet, 3.25 inches for women.
A $5,000 prize pool is to be split between any men jumping 19 feet, with an equal pool to be split between any women jumping 15 feet.
As well as the fast-paced competition, attractions for fans include an opening ceremony and a live radio broadcast.
Pole Vault in Paradise is a fundraiser for the Key West High School track team. Athlete registration is $100 per person to compete and $25 per person to attend the clinics. Viewing is free.
Event information: kwtfc.org/pole-vault-in-paradise/