Grand Haven Beach Vault: Niles native, 79, still gets a kick out of pole vaulting

GRAND HAVEN, MI — Bob Root is the epitome of the saying age is just a number.

The 79-year-old from Niles competed in the masters division of the Grand Haven Beach Vault on Saturday at Grand Haven City Beach.

Root, who travels all over the country competing in pole vaulting events, vaulted at a height of 7 feet.

“I love this,” Root said of the beach vault. “On the beach, it’s pretty extraordinary. I’m really impressed with it.”

Brian Finney won the masters division with a vault of 13-6. The beach vault, which started on Friday, had close to 300 competitors from various ages and from various locations across the country.

Root, a 1952 graduate of Dowagiac High School, quit vaulting after high school and picked it back up when he was 65.

“I wish they had something like this back when I got out of high school,” he said. “I’d have kept it up. Maybe there was some place, but you never hear much about it.”

Root said pole vaulting at his age helps him active, but also noted it does come with some pain.

“It keeps me on my toes,” he said. “I don’t get out of it unscathed. Right now, I have a bad shoulder. Well, both bad shoulders.”

Finishing in third place in the girls 14 and under division was soon-to-be sophomore at Sparta Olivia Kane, who pole vaults for the Spartans’ track team.

“It’s just a lot more fun,” she said. “You get to meet a lot of different people, or you get to see your friends.

“You never get to the beach from the vault any other time.”

Kane got into pole vaulting because of her dad, Peter Kane, who also pole vaulted in high school.

“When I quit gymnastics, he just said it would be a great idea,” Olivia Kane said. “It would be fun, and it really is.”

Kane, who was competing in her second beach vault, said vaulting on the beach has its differences from vaulting at the track.

“It’s a lot hotter,” she said. “It’s something you have to get used to. There’s more sand on the runway, so it’s a different feel.”

Kane competed in her first beach vault a couple of years ago and said it was a good learning experience.

“It was really hard to get used to at first,” she said. “Really different, really weird, because that was my first year vaulting. It took a little bit of getting used to doing a sport outside of school.”

Kane said she enjoyed her first year of varsity competition at Sparta.

“It was a lot of fun; it was interesting,” said Kane, who’s PR was 10-6 during the high school season. “More practice than in middle school.”

Olivia Kane
Olivia Kane


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