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A Spectator’s Guide: Pole Vault and the Metric System

What does that number mean? So many times I have been asked what the performance board is displaying at my pole vault competition. There is always this “mysterious” number posted at the meets, and it keeps changing! For those of you who know that it is the height of the bar in metric, good for you! But more than likely, you still don’t have any idea how high that bar ACTUALLY is set. You need feet and inches. The purpose of this post is to teach you to better understand the metric system, and hopefully make watching pole vault easier and more enjoyable!

For all of you high school pole vaulters out there, this is an easy way to impress a college coach! When a coach ask for your personal best, or you are filling out a recruiting questionnaire, answer in metric! This is an easy way to let the coach know that you know your sport! And for any spectator reading, and this includes my own mother, this is the end to your confusion over HOW HIGH THAT DANG BAR IS SET!

At most competitions there will be an electronic display board to show where the bar is currently set. This is a metric representation of the height. It will be a number with a decimal in it, like 4.20m. Note that the height can be displayed one of a few ways (4.20m, 4.2m, 4.2, or 4.20) Most high school meets display the height in feet and inches, but college and professional meets will display the height using the metric system 99% of the time. So how high is it exactly? Here is a simple way to make sense of the height:

  • For men, a good benchmark to know when watching a meet is 5.00m. This is roughly 16’5”, or 16 feet 5 inches.
  • For women the mark to know is 4.00m. This is roughly 13’1.5”, or 13 feet 1.5 inches.

Once you memorize these two bench marks, you are on your way to easily calculating the bar’s height in feet and inches!

  • For every 30cm (or .30m), the bar is roughly 1 foot higher. (The conversion is a little less than a foot, but for estimation purposes, just add a foot).  
    • For example, if the display board reads 4.30m, you can make a pretty good guess at the height. Starting at 4.0m, you increased 0.30 meters (or 30centimeters). 30cm is about one foot. So that’s one foot higher than 13’1.5”. Therefore, if the bar is set at 4.30m, it is approximately 14’1.5” high.
  • For every 15cm  (or .15m) the bar is roughly  6 inches higher
    • For example, if the display board reads 5.15m, you start at 5.0m and increase 0.15 meters (or 15 centimeters). 15cm is about 6 in. So that’s 6 in higher than 16’5”. Therefore, if the bar is set at 5.15m, it is approximately 16’11” high.
  • For every 10 cm (or .10m) the bar is roughly 4 inches higher
    • For example, if the display board reads 4.10m, you start at 4.0m and increase 0.10 meters (or 10centimeters). 10cm is about 4 in. So that’s one four inches higher than 13’1.5”. Therefore, if the bar is set at 4.10m, it is approximately 13’5.5” high.

*Remember, these are not exact measurements, but they are close and give you an estimate within one inch. If you would like an exact conversion from metric to feet and inches, you can use a conversion calculator.

You can also install an application on your iPhone or Android to convert the metric system to standard feet and inches. This will be helpful while watching any of the other field events too!

In most high school meets, the bar goes up by six inches at every new height. Once there are only a few competitors left, the bar may go up by three inches. In college and in professional meets, the height usually follows these different increments:

  • 15 cm (this will last for one or maybe two heights to weed out a few people)
  • 10 cm (once the bar reaches a decent height, the increment of progression decreases.)
  • 5 cm (when there are only a few competitors left, the bar goes up by a smaller margin)
  • 1 cm or maybe 2 (sometimes if there is only one competitor remaining, the athlete may move the bar to a weird number-like 4.36m- to go for a meet record, stadium record, or personal best height).
Now you know how to read metric and how to convert the height into something that makes sense! Next time you are at a meet, and someone in the crowd is confused at how high the bar is, wow them with your knowledge of the event. Stay tuned for more information about how to become an expert in the pole vault…
Pole Vaulting Standards
Pole Vaulting Standards

from: http://everyinchvera.com/a-spectators-guide-pole-vault-and-the-metric-system/#more-485

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