Masters vaulters to be showcased at 100th Drake Relays
Who says only sprinters and middle-distance types can represent masters in major outdoor meets? A bunch of world-class geezervaulters (some in their 60s) will compete in a masters exhibition event at the 100th Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Doug “Bubba” Sparks made the announcement on Becca Gillespy’s site. Bubba, who won M55 silver at Spokane, wrote: “After six months of back and forth with inside help and influence, the (Drake Relays) committee has approved the event and final field for a Masters Vault at the 100th Drake Relays. The vault is planned for 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. The field includes Gary Hunter, Paul Babits, John Altendorf, Trevor Richards, Jeff Kingstad, Bill Halverson, Bubba Sparks, Don Curry, Joe Johnston and a few others we are trying to confirm. This will be the first major masters vault competition in a major meet.”
Curious about how this event took shape, I wrote Bubba down in Texas.
He replied that he had been approached at Spokane nationals last August by Dr. Curt Broek, Drake University’s team optometrist who is on the Drake Relays Committee “and a very good M50 vaulter himself. He gets 100% of the credit,” Bubba wrote.
I had never met him, but he introduced himself and told me this was his dream and he thought he could sell it if I got the right group of guys committed to paying their own way. Apparently Drake once paid a guy to set up a masters mile and only one guy was known and the others were fluff. So our deal was that all vaulters had to have WRs, ARs, be national champions and/or World Championship medalists.
After the meet, Curt emailed me a wish list of vaulters and I got in touch with them and convinced them how fun it would be to play a tiny role in the 100th Drake Relays. Some of us even jumped at Drake in college, so this could show that T&F is a lifetime sport. We came up with the slogan for our efforts as “Masters Vaulters … like the Drake Relays, we’re aging gracefully.”
Bubba says the masters vault will take place during the distance carnival and just before the high school events. (And he wouldn’ be surprised if his geezervaulters go higher than some of the kidlets.)
“We will also make an appearance at the Mall Vault (at the Jordan Creek Town Center) on Wednesday night and attend the big banquet after we jump on Thursday,” Bubba writes. “Fun? Curt’s wife has invited all of us to stay with them at their house — so that should be a bit of a zoo. Don Curry, my training partner and defending National Senior Games Champ (sixth at Worlds), will fly in to K.C. early, rent an SUV and wait on guys and poles to arrive before driving over to Des Moines. Can’t wait.”
Even though the prime-time events at Drake are Saturday, April 25, this is still a breakthrough for masters. Not only is a field event featured (at long last), but the entrants aren’t primarily M40s. In fact, most appear to be in their 50s. In fact, Joe Johnston is 65, and John Altendorf will be 63 at the time of the Drake Relays.
Any room for an M80 phenom like Bud Held? And history’s greatest over-60 female vaulter, Nadine O’Connor? And what about W55 record-setting vaulter Kay Glynn? She’d be there in a heartbeat. She lives in Hastings, Iowa — only about 2 hours southwest of Des Moines!
Bubba is right on the important thing. This should be fun!