Pole vault bolsters seniors' fitness, friendships

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Pole vault bolsters seniors' fitness, friendships

Unread postby Bubba PV » Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:13 pm

http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/ ... riendships

For trio, the bar is high: Pole vault bolsters seniors' fitness, friendships
By Christopher Behnan • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • November 24, 2010

On a late-fall day, three Livingston County men realize intense self-awareness charging a runway and ascending toward their target height with Michigan's Indian summer colors in the backdrop.

If asked, the men of senior-citizen age would tell you finding that sense of peace is crucial at this point in their lives.

The men are pole vaulters, in some cases national and international title holders.

Hartland Township resident Jim Roth, Unadilla Township resident Howard Booth and Brighton Township resident Terry Woodward are members of the local Tamarack Valley Pole Vault Club — an informal group of about 10 members, half of whom are over age 60.

They claim the track and field event — considered difficult at any age — has put them in the best shape of their lives.

Pole vaulting is a perfect mix of mental and physical skill: A competitor must first believe he or she can clear the bar, then have the focus and physique to make that happen.

Roth, 73, revisited the sport in 2006 following a 46-year hiatus.

On a recent trip to Vail, Colo., he traversed some of the most advanced hills on the downhill ski slopes. He hadn't skied in 20 years.

"I feel no different than I did when I was 30. There's no limit to what I can do physically," Roth said.

"At my age, I'm getting better, and it shouldn't be happening," he added.

A significant challenge in pole vaulting is getting the pole to bend properly before launching — hopefully — up and over the bar. Being able to run fast is a given.

While track and field competition includes a host of events, including pole vault, there are myriad pole-vaulting-only events, Booth explained. Arguably the largest in Michigan is the Grand Haven Beach Vault.

Dedicated pole vaulters can compete almost every weekend of the summer in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, if they so choose.

Roth and Booth met after Roth read about Booth's pole-vaulting prowess in an area publication. The other two met in competition.

The Tamarack team trains at Booth's roughly 4-acre property abutting the Pinckney State Recreation Area in Unadilla Township.
Booth developed the course in 2007. Since that time, the Tamarack men have trained once per week, all week, all summer long.

In some cases, their schedule has bled into fall. That happened this year, and the men recently hung up their poles until next summer.

Pole vault isn't a passing interest for them, and they don't do it for photo opportunities or to garner attention.

Booth, 67, is the reigning world, U.S. and Canadian pole-vaulting champion in his age division.

He bested competition from Sweden, France and Russia in March at the World Masters, an international competition in British Columbia, Canada. Booth cleared 10 feet, defeating a Swedish pole vaulter who competed in the 1972 Olympics.

"We're all pretty much serious about pole vaulting. We're serious about coaching each other," Booth explained.

"We're seriously trying to get better. It's not just club tennis," he added.

The three county pole vaulters come from diverse backgrounds.

Booth is a professor of biology at Eastern Michigan University, and is a pole-vault coach at EMU.

Booth returned to pole vaulting after a 40-year absence from the sport.

"It requires your total body. You're just defying a whole lot of logic that says, 'don't do that,' " Booth said.

Age also hasn't fazed Booth, who has become known among students for doing handstand push-ups in the lecture hall.

Roth had a heart attack in 2003, and has lost 20 pounds since that time, which he attributes in large part to pole vaulting regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

He's semiretired and revisited pole vaulting in 2006, first clearing 4 feet in practice. He cleared 7 feet at the 2007 Senior Olympic Games in Louisville, Ky., placing third in his age division.

Roth runs a pole-vault clinic at Hartland High School with the school's track team during summer.

Woodward is a current State of Michigan Games pole-vaulting champion and a high school pole-vault coach.

Roth is serious about improving his game, but said the friendships he's made through the group and the companionship it has brought to his life is equally important to him.

If one of the guys gets injured, the others — all of similar age — are familiar with the ailment and can help get him back on his feet again, Booth said.

Everyone has "been there, done that" when it comes to injuries, he said, and is aware injuries at their age can sideline them from competition for months at a time.

"The group is synergistic. It is greater than just one individual," Booth said.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Christopher Behnan at (517) 548-7108 or at cbehnan@gannett.com.

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Re: Pole vault bolsters seniors' fitness, friendships

Unread postby souleman » Fri Nov 26, 2010 6:26 pm

Nice story

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Re: Pole vault bolsters seniors' fitness, friendships

Unread postby master » Sun Nov 28, 2010 3:08 am

Yah... nice to see some old guys get some press! Way to go! :yes:
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