Peter Hlavin ties Willie Banks’ USA record in M55 high jump

A 7-foot jumper at the University of Iowa, Peter Hlavin has made history at 6 feet — joining Willie Banks as the M55 American age-group record holder. He cleared 1.83 meters Saturday at the Pasadena Senior Games at Caltech. Even more amazing — it was his first 6-foot jump since 2008! But Willie remains the oldest American 6-footer, since Peter turned 55 on January 7 and Willie was 56 when he went 6. Peter was a walk-on at Iowa, but earned a scholarship his sophomore year. He competed against Noel Rubel, now a masters multi-eventer. Peter entered masters in 2007 at age 49 and says: “During my first week of coaching high jump at a local high school, I saw these kids jumping and said to myself ‘If they can do it, then so can I.’  I ordered high jump shoes that evening (Tuesday), the shoes arrived on Thursday, and I competed in my first meet that weekend.  I made 5-4 (1.62m) and strained my hamstring too!” When I informed Willie of the new mark, he replied: “Fantastic! I know Pete, he is much deserving!” Fellow jumper Annelies Steekelenburg shot this delightful video:

Here’s a quickie Q&A with Peter: Did you try for a higher height Saturday? If so, what, and how close were you?
Hlavin: I took a fair number of jumps (10 competition jumps).  Couple this with a long and drawn out high jump competition and 90 degree temperature, and I’d say that I simply ran out of gas. 

I had to wait around for a long time before it was my turn to jump.  So my opening height was lower than normal.  Ironically, my opening height jump was a miss. My takeoff leg buckled and I crashed into the bar. I had been sitting around a little bit too long —— an ominous start to the competition!

Bar Progression:  

1.55    1.60    1.65    1.72    1.77    1.83
XO    O     O        O    XO       XXO
What’s made the difference in your improved jumping this year?
There are several factors involved in my improved jumping.  First, I am trying to not let my brain get in the way.  That is, I try not to get too technical with my thoughts while jumping.  Having said that, the biggest difference has been a technical change to my approach made only one month ago —— a long overdue re-engineering of my curve. 

For whatever reason, my takeoff spot seems to be hardwired. That is, my body wants me to place my plant foot in a specific spot every time I jump.  This takeoff point conflicted somewhat with my theoretical computerized model curve. 

After a disappointing performance at Indoor Nationals (2013), I reconfigured my approach so that my new curve ended at my hardwired or prescribed takeoff spot.  When I made this adjustment, I learned that my takeoff angle needed to increase by over four degrees.  Previously, my approach angle was too “shallow” making me run more along the bar prior to takeoff. 

This shallow approach created a tendency for my body to peak in front of the bar (versus peak over the bar). The new adjustment to the takeoff angle resulted in a “steeper” or more perpendicular to the bar angle of attack. 

This steeper takeoff angle allows my body to now peak over the bar.  A side benefit is increased confidence resulting in a faster run-up and, in turn, greater ground force and increased penetration into the pit.
Other factors included very disciplined weight lifting program, a desire not to over-train, increased speed work, and last but not least, a solid dose of inspiration from several of my high jump colleagues, including Jim Barrineau, Willie Banks, Tom Foley, Greg Vidos and, of course, Bruce McBarnette. 

Over the past year, these M50 and M55 jumpers all cleared at least 1.80m.  Following 2013 Masters Indoor Nationals, Jim, Tom, Greg and I were all sitting around a table reflecting upon the competition.  I recall thinking to myself that I was the only one in the room without a National medal – a sobering thought.  I wanted to change that picture and said to myself “If they can do it, then so can I.”

I would be remiss if I did not add that my son, a 14 year-old high jumper, instilled some inspiration, as well.  Two months ago, he jumped 1.79m (5-10) ranking him as one of the top Freshman jumpers in California. 

His mark was better than my best jump over the past four years.  Although we both laughed about my passing the torch to him, I still felt that I had some serious hops.  Thus, I would say the prospect of recapturing family bragging rights played a minor role, too.

What’s your new goal for the year?
My goal with respect to the high jump is to stay healthy, stick to my game plan and win as many Masters meets as possible.

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June 2, 2013

16 Responses

  1. Peter Taylor - June 3, 2013

    Peter Hlavin is a good guy and has added a lot to our meets. His views here are very nicely expressed.

    The high jumpers mentioned in this post, including Bruce McBarnette, Jim Barrineau, Tom Foley, Greg Vidos, Willie Banks, and Pete, have really enhanced our nationals. They are masters T&F at its best.

  2. Matt McCubbins - June 3, 2013

    Oh my Gosh!! Peter, awesome jump dude!!! You cleared it clean as a whistle! Does this mean your consulting fee just doubled?

  3. Noel Ruebel - June 3, 2013

    Great Jump! It’s been 20+ years since I’ve seen the north side of 6′, and the last time I tried to run as fast as you do to the bar I got the bungee wrapped around my neck from over-rotating to the bar! I’m looking forward to watching the most competitive age group in the High Jump – (M55), duke it out in Kansas. Stay healthy my friend.

  4. al cestero - June 3, 2013

    way to go kids…!!! looks like 55 is the new 40…ha..ha..!!!

  5. Bert & Kathy Bergen - June 3, 2013

    We are so glad we were to see the jump. It was perfect.

  6. Henry - June 3, 2013

    Congratulations Peter; great jumping! Thanks for the inspiration; it helped me make it through my morning workout without injury.

  7. Milan Jamrich - June 3, 2013

    They say 55 is the new 40. When I was 55 they said 55 was the new 45. Do we need to make some adjustment for that :-)?

    Congratulation Pete!

  8. Mark Cleary - June 3, 2013

    Congrats Pete I know it mean’s a lot to you !

  9. Weia Reinboud - June 4, 2013

    That’s age grading Milan!

  10. Birgit Dean - June 4, 2013

    Congratulations! What a terrific accomplishment, sorry I missed it!

  11. Greg Vidos - June 4, 2013

    Way to go Peter! Looks like we both had the same idea at the same time, which resulted in the same outcome! Congratulations on keeping our competition going! Glad you moved up though!

  12. Jerome Kaiser - June 7, 2013

    55, the new 35! Peter, keep flying high. I can’t even jump out of bed. Do I have to call you Sir Peter now?

  13. Maura - June 7, 2013

    Way to go Peter! Keep following your dream and inspiring the next generation to achieve their full potential by never giving up!

  14. Mike - June 8, 2013

    Nice jump. Looking forward to jumping with you at the Western regionals on the the 15th.

  15. Peter Hlavin - June 10, 2013

    Thanks everyone for the hearty congratulations and witty quips. A “shout out” goes to everyone who hung around the meet until the end of the high jump competition, especially elite Masters high jumper, Annelies Steekelenburg, who captured the special moment on video. That’s her voice in the background yelling P-E-T-E-R!

  16. Christel Donley - June 10, 2013

    And the record form with all the required “extras”
    was signed and “hand delivered” to the post office by Tuesday morning. We did not get back until Monday night, drove from CA to CO.
    I even asked for a confirmation from Sandy, hope it will come, if not, I will ask. Just ask me how to submit record forms!!! I have “some ” experience!
    I left the next day for St.Louis.

    Peter, Olathe is waiting for you and even higher jump.

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