Berkeley Springs High School may make the leap into pole vaulting
by Kate Shunney
School officials will consider spending nearly $16,000 on equipment that would allow the Berkeley Springs High School track and field team to once again include pole vaulting in their repertoire.
The idea already has so much support that community members have pledged $7,500 toward the equipment cost. Local lawyer Charles Trump announced the financial pledge at last Tuesday's school board meeting.
"I've been attending track meets for years. The kids have done well over the years, but it's frustrating at these meets that our kids have been making great accomplishments but lose points right off the bat because we don't have this event," Trump said.
Berkeley Springs track and field coach Dave Mundey said pole vaulting is the only one of 18 events that the high school team doesn't compete in.
He said Berkeley Springs High School is the only school in the Eastern Panhandle without the event. Athletic Director Chad Brinegar said that nearby Hancock and Southern Fulton High Schools have pole vaulting equipment as well.
Coach Mundey presented a price quote of $15,940 to the school board at their August 7 meeting. The estimate covered the pole vault landing pad, side posts, weather cover and asphalt runway.
Poles for each athlete would run about $300 each, and Mundey said he'd like to have two girls and two boys compete in the event this coming spring if the school board decides to go ahead with the sport.
At the August 7 meeting, school board member Larry Omps asked if the track team would incur any ongoing expenses, like an additional coach, to handle the event. According to Mundey, assistant coach Mike Clement would take charge of the pole vault event since he'd competed in that event himself and has coached pole vaulters before.
Board member David Ambrose asked if it was possible to have the high jump landing double as a pole vault apron, but Mundey said that wasn't ideal, because it would push the landing mats into at least two running lanes.
Ambrose lent his support to adding the new track & field event, noting that having the equipment would allow Berkeley Springs to host large track meets. Those meets can bring many overnight visitors and significant business to a town, said Ambrose.
Athletes and points
Mundey said he's had local track athletes asking to compete in pole vaulting for years.
"They see other kids going up in the air and it looks like fun and they want to do it, too. We definitely have the talent for the event," Mundey said.
He acknowledged that parents and members of the public have concerns about safety when it comes to the high-flying sport.
"I know a lot of people look at it and think it's a dangerous event. In five years as a coach, I've never seen anyone injured in jumping events. More kids are injured in running," Mundey said.
In recent years, poles and landing pads have become safer, and some pole vaulters even wear helmets when they compete, said Mundey.
Adding the event would put Berkeley Springs High School in a better position to bring home state championships, according to Mundey and Brinegar.
Mundey said the girls' track team lost the state title last year by only five points. The team could have garnered those points easily if they'd only had a pole vaulter to enter the event.
The school board will officially consider the question at their next board meeting on Tuesday, August 21. The board meets at 7 p.m.