Brenda Bumgardner is an elementary school teacher who holds the American masters (40+) outdoor record in the women’s pole vault at 3.42 meters, or 11 feet 2 1/2 inches. Bumgardner set her record when she was 42 years old. Bumgardner came late to pole vaulting because the sport wasn’t offered when she was younger. She, however, didn’t let time deter her hopes of setting a record in the event.

Early Career

Bumgardner was born in 1967 in Platteville, Wisconsin. She competed as a heptathlete at the University of Northern Iowa. She was a team captain and senior-year team MVP under Panther coach LeaAnn Shaddox. Her athletic career wasn’t over when Bumgardner graduated from UNI in 1989. With a degree in physical education, Bumgardner became an assistant track coach for the Montana State Bobcats while pursuing a master’s degree in physical education.


During all these moves and jobs, Bumgardner longed to add pole vaulting to her impressive athletic resume. Pole vaulting was not a sanctioned women’s sport during her college career. The day before her 40th birthday, however, while working as a teacher in Arvada, Colorado, Bumgardner started vaulting because, she says, “It always looked like so much fun.” Competing for the very first time at the Air Force Academy in Fort Collins, Colorado, Bumgardner set the American master’s outdoor record.


Bumdardner has vaulted higher than her American record. Her American master’s record indoors is one inch higher, at 11 feet 3 1/2 inches. She continues to teach physical education at Swanson Elementary School and is pursuing a Ph.D. in social psychology. Meanwhile, she still burns to compete. Although, what sport she may tackle next is a mystery, even to her. “I like being an athlete,” Bumgardner says. “It’s more fun being an athlete than a coach. I don’t know what the next challenge might be. Maybe boxing, I don’t know.”

by: Alex O’Meara



Pole Vaulting
Pole Vaulting







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