Matt Goul: Gorman pole vault a splash after five years

GETTYSBURG — Steve Gorman has opened the last five summers by inviting anyone with a pole to vault in front of Lake Heritage. He holds the Dave Gorman Memorial Vault in honor of his deceased brother, who drowned in 2008.

Ten years ago, the Gorman brothers held a “Marina Vault” in the same location just outside Gettysburg. After Dave’s death, Steve revived the event in honor of his brother.

No awards are handed out. Every vaulter must pay an entry fee — this year it was $30 — and they can pay another $5 if they wish to make a fourth attempt after three standard misses.

So why come?

“Street vault and beach vaults, these are great,” said Chet Clodfelter, a former Big Ten champion in the event for Purdue. “You’ve got a fast track, great crowd and you always have great music. It’s just always a fun time.”

Clodfelter’s attraction to the Gettysburg event came from his friend Gary Hunter. Both compete as pole vaulters in the USA Track & Field Masters Program, which provides national competitions for age groups after 30. Gorman knew Hunter from his time in the Masters events, and that relationship helped set the scene for Saturday’s vaulting.

Among the 70 entrants, Hunter, 57, and Clodfelter, 49, were the elders. When Hunter’s spiked shoes dug into the vinyl padding in front of the pole vault pit, Clodfelter joked the crunching came from his knees.

Hunter smiled but didn’t disagree.

He tightly wrapped his left knee with a pad. There hasn’t been any cartilage on that side of his leg for at least 10 years, Hunter estimated. But when he or Clodfelter took off down the wooden and rubber makeshift runway, they sprung over the pole vault bar with ease.

Many of the vaulters around them weren’t even born when Hunter and Clodfelter first picked up a pole. The two flew aboard Hunter’s personal four-passenger plane from Indiana with two others. They brought four poles, about all they could fit, for the trip.

Such an endeavor was light packing compared to Larisa Debich’s selection. Coming off her freshman season at Auburn University, Debich “only brought seven” of her 12 poles. A 2012 graduate of Hempfield Area High School near Pittsburgh, Debich heard about the Gorman Memorial Vault through a family friend who lives near the lake.

Like Debich, Josh Klostik is just a year removed from high school. However, the Penn State sophomore hasn’t vaulted much since last year at Wilson. Still, after a third miss at 12 feet, Klostick’s former high school coach talked him into paying $5 for another try. Klostick gave in and got his money’s worth by clearing the bar for a personal record.

“The feeling of falling from that height and knowing that bar is staying on there, you’re just psyched,” Klostick said.

With the lake and spectators looking on from their boats as the backdrop to one side, this competition hardly resembled a traditional track and field meet. Then again, as Gorman put it, this really isn’t a competition.

“They’re not competing with each other but the bar,” he said.

The 70 who vaulted Saturday marked a steady increase Gorman has seen in the event’s five years. About 60 came last year after only 20 showed the first time.

It’s grown to the point that last year’s event didn’t end until 10 p.m., more than 12 hours after the start.

“Last year we had to bring in cars to shine lights on these big guys to finish,” Gorman said.

He was sure that wouldn’t be the case this year. Gorman was more confident at least $1,000 had again been raised toward recreational funds around the Lake Heritage community. As participation grows, so do the funds.

The question is who will help tear down the pole vault pits on Sunday?

Gorman announced to the crowd anyone could come back and vault between 1-3 p.m.

Steve Gorman
Steve Gorman


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