The Great Northern Street Vault took place on Saturday and featured pole vaulters, young and old, from around the state.
One of the more impressive youngsters in the event, which was presented by Rocky Mountain Athletics, was 11-year old Kamden Hilborn.
The 4-foot-11 seventh-grader at Montana City School cleared 7-feet-9, almost twice her height.
“My old PR before today was 6-8, so I broke it by over a foot,” said Hilborn, whose older brother Gunnar is a vaulter for Helena High.
After watching Hilborn’s performance, an interested observer, John Peterson, commented that, “This little kid’s gonna be good. She’s got great form, and she’s not even bending the pole yet.”
Peterson knows a little of which he speaks, having won the AA championship for HHS in 1964 while setting a state record.
Hilborn related how she learned the sport from the late Doug LeBrun and also Bill Hurford, the current Bengals coach and director of the Street Vault.
She said she called LeBrun by his nickname, “Old Man,” and that he called her either “Sunshine or Buttercup.”
“My favorite part of the pole vault is when you see the bar still there when you clear,” said Hilborn, whose goal in the sport is “to stick with it and keep clearing higher and higher.”
Mika Robinson, a Billings West junior, went 10-3, just shy of her PR of 10-6, when she placed runner-up at the recent state meet in May.
Robinson is the daughter of Capital High and Carroll College football great Joe Robinson. Two of her uncles were local vaulters back in the 1960s; Bob Robinson for Helena Cathedral High, and Mick Robinson for Helena Central High and Carroll.
Mika was also competing with another relative Saturday, HHS sophomore Madison McLaughlin.
The featured guest for the afternoon was Polson’s Melinda Owen. Owen was a Class B champion, an NCAA All-American at the University of Idaho and the 2009 bronze medalist at the U.S. Indoor Championships.
She owns a PR of 14-11.
Owen was unable to vault Saturday due to an ankle injury, but told the large group of athletes and fans in attendance that, “Hard work is a way of life. Not just in the pole vault, but at school, at home and doing your chores. It becomes routine, which leads to success.
“Just when you think you can’t work any harder, just go ahead and do it anyway.”
In the male portion of the exhibition, Ted Polette, 55, and Brett Bomar, 48, showed the crowd what a couple of veterans can do.
Polette went 9-9, and Bomar cleared 10-3.
In 1975, with Missoula Sentinel, Polette was the fourth Montana high schooler to clear 14 feet, and placed third at state. His school record lasted 25 years.
“I was using a 13-foot pole. I just wish I had Doug LeBrun coaching me back then, I’d have gone a lot higher,” said Polette, who holds the Big Sky State Games 45-49 age group record of 11 feet.
Bomar, who was a 13-9 vaulter for Helena High in 1982, received advice from his son during Saturday’s event.
“I just told him he needed to adjust the standards, improve his steps and run faster down the runway … anything to help him get over the bar,” said T.J. Bomar, HHS’ latest state champion.
A pair of Bengals, Gunnar Hilborn and Sam Hilger, PRed at 13-3 and 12-9, respectively.
In the collegiate category, Carroll’s Easton Padden went 14-9 and Libby Madison of Montana State cleared 10-9.
Capital High alum and current MSU Bobcat Ryan Kropp just missed at 15-3, clearing the bar by 9-12 inches twice, but knocking it off on the way down.
by: Curt Synness