http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/arti ... e-vaulting
Michigan seniors set bar high mentally, physically with pole vaulting
CHRISTOPHER BEHNAN • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • DECEMBER 7, 2010
UNADILLA TWP. - 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."
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.
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.
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."
The three county pole vaulters come from diverse backgrounds.
Booth is a professor of biology and a pole-vault coach at Eastern Michigan University.
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.
Woodward is a current State of Michigan Games pole-vaulting champion and a high school pole-vault coach.
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.
All things masters pole vaulting.
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