Grand Haven beach hosting world’s largest outdoor pole vault event featuring Olympic alternate

Mary Saxer had her mind set on a trip to London this summer.

The former Notre Dame pole vaulter was hoping to qualify for the Summer Olympics in her event, but last month at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., the 25-year-old South Bend resident just missed getting her ticket stamped, placing fourth.

Her jump of 14 feet, 9 inches earned her a place as the team’s alternate, but not that coveted spot on the team.

“Fourth was tough, because I cleared the same height that made the team,” Saxer said. “So that stabbed me through the heart. But I have to keep in shape because you don’t know (if she will get a call to go to London). My plan was to keep jumping anyway, no matter if I made the team or not. Last week had a meet and went 14-10, so I’m ready to jump high. It’s disappointing to miss making the team, but I’m excited to jump to make pesonal best (15-2).”

Saxer’s consolation prize, and the ability to keep jumping, will be a trip to Grand Haven City Beach this weekend to compete in the 12th Annual Grand Haven Beach Vault.

This will be Saxer’s second trip to the Beach Vault, and she says she loves it.

She will be competing in the Elite Division, which will hit one of the two runways set up on Grand Haven City Beach at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

The Beach Vault is a two-day event, starting Friday at 10 a.m. and running through Saturday evening.

Vaulters all ages will hit the two pits each day.

“If I can pick anywhere to vault it would be a beach vault,” said Saxer, a two-time All American while at Notre Dame. “My highest jump last year was at a beach vault in Seattle. The atmosphere is great with the water and the music. And I love the beach. This keeps the sport fun.”

East Kentwood boys track coach Dave Emeott and Rockford pole vault coach Kevin Patterson came up with the idea of vaulting in the beach in Grand Haven and can’t believe the popularity of the event.

Last year’s Beach Vault was the largest, with close to 320 vaulters. And spectators range in the thousands over the two days.

“This year, as of Monday, we have about 220 vaulters, which is where we were last year,” Patterson said. “We hope to get another 100 in the final week, so we’ll be at the same amount as last year.

“It’s pretty crazy,” he added. “It started out the first year with a couple shovels and a Bobcat, and now we’re the biggest outdoor pole vault competition in the world. We are lucky to have the City of Grand Haven and a resort town to hold this. A lot of this is a vacation destination and they plan their summer around it. That is neat to see.”

Patterson admits that weather is a driving factor in spectating and participation. With warm temperatures and sunny skies forecasted, it looks like another big weekend in the beach.

Admission is free, Patterson says all fans need to bring is a loud cheering voice and suntan lotion.

“This is different event, because you can have people supporting their kids or grandpas at the same time,” Patterson said. “And it’s on the beach and the weather should be sunny and in the 80s, so you cant beat it.”

Prize money will be awarded in the Elite Divisions with $500 going to first place, $250 to second and $150 for third.

by: Jeff Chaney


Mary Saxer
Mary Saxer

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