In between downing brats and grilled chicken, more than two dozen elite pole vaulters competed for bragging rights and a chance to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials.
And all of this took place at Mooresville’s Rocket Man Pole Vault and was part of the summer series of events.
“We had about 14 elite pole vaulters,” said Rocket Man owner Pete Carpentier.
Another 16 vaulters, from high school age to seniors, competed in the open event.
The winners in the women’s division were Jill Marois, first place, Megan Zimlic, second, and Taylor Drummonds, third. In the men’s division, Devin King took first place, Eric Richard and Matt Ludwig tied for second and Chase Brannon was third.
Although he’s usually on the field for pole vault events, Olympian Scott Houston was providing support in the event Wednesday. Houston is nursing a training injury and decided to sit this one out to be prepared for the national championships in a couple of weeks.
But he still took time Wednesday to help other competitors get ready for Olympic trials. “We had 12 of the best in the country, among the top 30 in the country,” Houston said.
Houston, assistant track and field coach at High Point University, said he began pole vaulting at the age of 13.
“I saw one of my sister’s friends do it and I wanted to try it,” he said. He tried out for the track team in the seventh grade but got cut. He spent the next year preparing, doing a lot of running, and at the end of his eighth-grade year he was a winner in every competition.
He parlayed that success into a spot in the Olympics and was a team member for the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England.
Houston said he got involved with Rocket Man because of his friendship with Carpentier and the fact that he coaches Carpentier’s son at High Point.
“They’ve built up this great club in Mooresville over the past four years,” Houston said. “It’s a fun environment.”
He said pole vaulting is a sport that both athletes and spectators can enjoy, especially the recent event in Mooresville. “It’s really special. You are close to the runway and close to the environment and it helps all the athletes perform,” Houston said.
Houston said pole vaulting is one of the most athletic individual events. “You are running with a seven-pound object, launching into the air and take off in a back flip in the middle,” he said. “There’s a lot of coordination and a lot of speed involved. It all happens in about 1.5 seconds from take-off to landing.”
Houston said this event was a great one to get ready for the nationals. “We have eight people from North Carolina all preparing for the national championships in two-and-a-half weeks. It’s a great tune-up to help us get prepared for the nationals,” he said.
Rocket Man, Houston said, is a big part of the growing North Carolina hub for pole vaulting.
For Carpentier, seeing some of the vaulters from Rocket Man advance is thrilling, but a bigger part of the thrill is the atmosphere at the competition.
“It was awesome. It was lots of fun,” he said.