The day after CIF Finals I decided to try a new solution. My father had a friend who owned a machine shop with a big lathe, which he let me use. I very carefully measured the diameter of a 140 and of a 150. I put the 150 on the lathe and very carefully sanded it down until the diameter was exactly in between the 140 and the 150. I had no idea if this would work, but I had to try something. I tried out the pole the same day and though I didn’t vault well, I felt that the pole-modification had worked and that it was about the right stiffness I needed. I felt encouraged and had new hope for finishing out the season successfully.
Four vaulters from the CIF Southern Section had qualified for the state meet. In a gesture of pole vault camaraderie, and a bit of hubris, I invited the other three vaulters to come to Claremont and have a vaulting practice with me a few days before we were to go to Berkeley for the state meet. Surprisingly, two of the three vaulters actually came. They were John Hergenrather (Arcadia) and Bob Seagren (Pomona). Neither of these guys were particularly enamored of Claremont’s pitted dirt runway or the hard wood-shaving landing pit, and neither vaulted well that day. But I had a great day on my newly-modified pole and cleared the bar set at 15’. When measuring the bar after my clearance, I pulled down a little on the crossbar because I wanted the bar the measure under 15’. I did not want my first 15’ clearance to be in practice – I wanted to do it in a meet.
On Saturday, June 1, 1963 (my eighteenth birthday!), the whole contingent from the Southern Section flew to Berkeley on a chartered plane. I remember that Bob Seagren was terrified. He had never flown on an airplane before. But it was fun traveling with all those great athletes.
The state meet was held at Edwards Field at UC Berkeley. I was a big favorite in my event. My picture was even on the cover of the meet program. The pole vault field was huge as there were no preliminaries to cut the size of the field down. During warm-ups my new pole was working great and I cleared 14’ by a mile a couple times. I felt fine and decided that would be my starting height. I had fantasies of going very high that day.
Then ensued several hours while the field worked its way through the lower heights. By the time the bar reached 14’1" I had become quite cold and the weather had too – with a cold headwind-crosswind coming up. I barely made 14’1" on my first try with a very poor vault. I just didn’t feel right and couldn’t get in my rhythm. Much to my dismay, I missed three times at 14’4” and was out. All three vaults were poor. Five vaulters had cleared 14’1" and four of them also made 14’4”. I got fifth place. The winner, Bill Fosdick, cleared 14’ 8 ¾”, taking away my national lead for the first time the whole season. This was my most disappointing defeat ever, and certainly the worst birthday of my life.
(continued in part 4)