http://www.sctimes.com/article/20110619 ... ate-record
At age 71, pole vaulter sets state record
9:51 PM, Jun. 18, 2011 | 4 Comments
St. Cloud resident Jim Noonen, 71, set the state pole vault record on June 12, clearing 8 feet. He took first place in his age category at the state and regional United States of America Track and Field competition at Hamline University.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Noonen said of his sport.
Noonen is a retired physical education teacher from St. Cloud. He spent 34 years teaching in the district and coaching track, football, gymnastics and cross country at Technical and Apollo high schools.
Noonen began vaulting at 14 and continued at Colorado State University in Greeley, Colo.
“Basically, I quit when I got out of college and started coaching, but when my kids got involved in summer track in 1981, I started again,” he said.
Noonen does most of his training at home. That training includes various drills. Once a week, he borrows poles from the Sauk Rapids school district and actually jumps in the pit.
Noonen said his favorite part about pole vaulting is the challenge.
“Pole vaulting is an event you can’t do at half speed,” Noonen said. “You have to go all out.”
Noonen cleared 8 feet on his first attempt pole vaulting when he was 14 at Grand Rapids Junior High School. He used a bamboo pole, ran on a cinder runway and landed in a sawdust pit. Now, he uses a Fiberglas pole, runs on a synthetic-surfaced runway and lands in a foam pit.
After a hip replacement and rehabilitation in 2007 forced Noonen to take a three-year hiatus from vaulting, he started training again to find age acting as a force against him. In 2010, Noonen said he could barely clear 6 feet, so he set his mind to clear 8 feet again, as he did during his first vault.
“I wanted to achieve the same height at the finish as I did at first,” Noonen said.
The Minnesota Masters Track and Field Organization lists Noonen as holding two age group records: Men’s 60-year-old with a height of 9 feet, 9 inches, set in 2002; and Men’s 70-year-old with a height of 8 feet, set in 2011. At 45, Noonen won the National Masters Competition in Indianapolis with a vault of 11-6 (ironically, the same as his best high school vault), and he has placed in the top three of his age group at four other national championships.
The All-American standard for vaulting at his age is 7-7. With his 8-foot vault, Noonen is ranked third in the nation in his age category for pole vaulting.
“Slowing down might be body-related, but it’s going so well,” Noonen said. “My wife just rolls her eyes at me.”
Noonen planned his last pole vault for the Star of the North Games in St. Cloud. He is entertaining the idea of working toward attending the National Senior Games in 2015 because they will be in Minneapolis.
“I’ve been doing this for 57 years,” Noonen said. “It is just hard to give it up.”
All things masters pole vaulting.
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