My last high school meet, the Golden West Invitational, was to be held three weeks after the state meet, on June 22, at Los Angeles State College. I’m lucky I even got invited. The meet was taking only four vaulters the from the California state meet, and I had placed fifth. But at that time the Golden West was for seniors only, and one of the vaulters who had beaten me at state, Bob Seagren, was a junior, so I squeaked into the Golden West meet.
During the three weeks between State and the Golden West a lot happened. It was the end of my senior year in high school and we had lots of social events including the prom. My attention was on vaulting, as usual, but I did relax a bit and tapered off my always-intense training. A few times I went out to LA State to vault. It was a facility I liked – asphalt-rubber runway and some foam chunks in the landing pit. There was usually a light tailwind and I considered it to be a great vaulting venue. One day when I went to vault there I found Ron Morris also vaulting. He told me that he had secured a sanction from the AAU to hold an all-comers meet there that day, but that he had neglected to put out any publicity about it nor to round up the necessary officials. We were the only two people on the field. Morris suggested that we have the meet anyway, just the two of us. I made 14’7 ½” and had good attempts at 15’. It was my last practice before the Golden West.
Exactly fifty years ago today (I am writing this on June 22, 2013), also on a Saturday, the Golden West meet was held. It was very exciting for me to see all the vaulters whose names I had been reading in Track & Field News all season. These guys were good! I was somewhat confident, but my confidence was tempered by my poor results at CIF and State. But I felt good that day and warm-ups went well. A whole bunch of guys cleared 14’ 5”, making this the best high school vault competition ever up to that time. Only Bill Fosdick and I cleared 14’9”, a new national lead. The officials asked us what height we wanted to try next, knowing that the national high school record was at stake. I said my usual, 15’ 1’’, which is what I always asked for when I had the opportunity to try for the record. But Fosdick said “why make it any harder than it needs to be – 15’ ½” will still give us the record.” So we went with 15’ ½”. This turned out to be crucial.
(continued in part 5)