Don Laz of the University of Illinois won the NCAA pole vault in 1951 and tied George Mattos for the 1953 AAU title. These were his only major championship honors, but he came desperately close to winning the 1952 Olympic gold medal as Bob Richards cleared the winning height on his final attempt to eliminate the need for a jump-off.
At the Ohio Relays in 1954, Laz cleared 15-2 (4.62) to become the second-best vaulter of all time, behind only the legendary Dutch Warmerdam. However, the family record now stands to the credit of his son, Doug, who cleared 17-4¾ (5.38) in 1976.
At the 1955 Pan American Games pole vault Don Laz won a bronze medal. In 1960, Laz sued CBS and the Ford Motor Co. for invasion of privacy after a film of him vaulting had been used in a TV commercial. The case was eventually settled out of court. Don Laz became an architect in Champaign, Illinois, but his career was tragically handicapped when he suffered a stroke.
Personal Best: PV – 4.65i (1952).