Rediscovering success: John Large savors victory on his comeback journey

BELDING, Mich.  —

At age 65, John Large has found success again with the pole vault.

Large, the Belding High School pole vault coach, won the 65- to 69-year-old age group in that event at 11-3 3/4 in the USATF Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 24 in Landover, Md.

Large, who pole vaulted in Greenville, gave up the sport 41 years and came back in 2007.

He ran into a friend from high school days, Bob Banhagel from Ionia, who mentioned how much he enjoyed USA masters track competition and had actually won the pole vault in 2010. Banhagel, back in the 1960s, set the school record in the event, becoming one of the first vaulters in the state to clear 13 feet.

“He said, ‘You’ve always worked out your whole life, you always run and lifted weights, and you don’t do anything about it. Why don’t you try pole vaulting?'” Large recalled

Large thought about it and decided to try it in the USATF masters division.

“I did my first meet. I thought I was in shape for it, but I really wasn’t,” he said. “My body wasn’t ready for what I had to do.”

He vaulted 9 feet at a Grand Haven meet and took first place.

“I trained and I trained and I trained. I did well the first year,” he said. “I tell everybody it took me two years to get in shape, just to get in shape. I was always having injuries.”

Last year at Cornerstone, he landed head first into the standards and dislocated his shoulder. He recovered after three months and then won three master meets in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

“Physically, I came back real quick,” he said. “I did exactly what the doctors and therapists told me to do.”

But he admits that he lost several months that he had to sit out because of injuries.

“I’m getting my confidence back now,” he said.

He won the 55-meter dash in the Indiana masters and 60 meters in the Michigan championships and said the speed helps him in his vaulting.

“I do a lot of speed training,” he said. “I’m enjoying it and I’m doing it really well. It’s a double benefit that’s going to help my jumping. If you have a bad day jumping, you can always focus your energies on something else. Somedays you’re not going to jump well so you can go out and have a good day of sprinting.”

Large had the Greenville record in the pole vault for about nine years.

“It wasn’t very high, it was 11-10,” he said. “My best jump is 12-2, and that’s now. In high school, we didn’t even have a track. I got all my track practice at the meet. I loved jumping in Ionia. It was the only track to have foam to land in. All the other teams in the conference, had sawdust or loam.

Basically, we landed in a mixture of dirt and sawdust.”

That’s why Large enjoys the modern-day landing pits and equipment he can use to go back to his pole vault days. He won the outdoor nationals. He was happy with how he was jumping, but then he sustained the shoulder injury.

“Now I’m trying to make a comeback,” he said. “I was jumping way higher in practice than I had ever jumped before.”

Large, a retired musician, is a volunteer coach at Belding.

“I took last year off because of my injury,” he said. “This is my fifth year.”

Belding coaches John Carlson and Joel Madsen contacted Large about helping out with Belding track.

“I’m doing the sprinters workouts with the track team to stay in shape, which I’ve never done before,” Large said. “It’s helping out a lot. It’s a structured workout, not just me doing it on my own.”

“He goes through the warm-ups with the team every day,” Carlson said. “He’s running the spring workouts at age 65. He worked out in our weight room all winter. He’s a tireless worker.”

Carlson also noted that Large has used Belding High School’s new indoor track and notes that residents of the community are invited to utilize it.

Carlson has been impressed with Large’s coaching skills.

“He’s doing a great job,” Carlson said. “He understands the mechanics of it well. He makes sure the (athletes) get the mechanics of it.”

Large plans on being in the USATF Masters outdoor nationals Olathe, Kansas, in July “as long as I’m healthy. I have a bunch of meets coming up,” he said.


Large Vaulter Magazine
Large Vaulter Magazine

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