GRAND HAVEN, MI – Fear was not a factor for April Steiner-Bennett on Friday.
During the first three rounds on the Women’s Elite Division at the 12th Annual Grand Haven Beach Vault at Grand Haven City Beach, the 32-year-old Mesa, Ariz. resident needed her third and final attempt to clear that respective height and move on.
That luck ran out in the fourth round trying to set a new women’s beach pole vault record at 15 feet, 1 ½ inches.
But that good third jump at 14-9 the previous round was good enough to win first prize and a $500 check for the former 2008 Olympian and Fear Factor champion.
In the Men’s Elite Division, former University of Kansas pole vaulter Jordan Scott won with a jump of 17-9. He also won $500 for first prize.
“That’s a bad idea (waiting to clear a height on your third attempt), it’s not ideal,” Steiner-Bennett said. “I just lost my run. You know we warm up, and then have to sit a while, and at my age, I need to be better prepared for that.”
Steiner-Bennet, who just took fifth at last month’s Olympic Trials, finished in eighth place at the Beijing, China Olympics four years ago.
And in 2004, she won the championship and $50,000 first-prize on the television show Fear Factor. She sealed the victory in that show by eating maggots.
So the competitive fire still runs deep.
“I was not real happy taking fifth at the Trials,” Steiner-Bennett said. “Next year I would like to make the World Team, because that’s in Russia. Then if I win there, I may put the pole away. But I do have a very supportive husband (Cameron), so you never know.”
Even though Scott won with a solid jump and took home the money, he was not all that happy with his performance.
“I wanted to jump higher,” said Scott, who also competed at last month’s Olympic Trials, but failed to clear any bar during the competition. “That is the lowest I have jumped in three weeks. I’ve had a good streak of where I’ve gone over 18 feet the past three weeks, so a little disappointed.”
Scott couldn’t blame the conditions, which were sunny and hot with low wind.
“It was great conditions, the crowd was great,” Scott said. “I’ve just been working on some technical stuff with my jump, and I couldn’t put it all together today.”
East Kentwood boys track coach Dave Emeott, who is one of the organizers of the Grand Haven Beach Vault, couldn’t have been more pleased with the first day of the event.
The event continued Saturday with Masters and Elite High School vaulters taking to the two pits.
“What a beautiful first day, and a lot of great participants,” Emeott said. “The Elite field was better than we’ve ever had, and I’m expecting another great day (Saturday).”
Aside from the Elite Division, several other high school age groups and division jumped on Friday.
Spring Lake senior Matt Batts won the 17/18 Division 1 championship with a personal-best jump of 13 feet.
And this came without even touching a pole the past two months.
“My coaches aren’t real happy with me not even practicing the last two months,” Batts said. “I guess my instincts just kicked in, and I got a lot of help from Jerry Sessions today.”
by: Jeff Chaney