It was a successful day for athletes as Grand Haven held its annual Beach Vault competition this weekend.
The event, now in its 13th year, boasted around 300 competitors from various age groups. Kevin Patterson, who co-founded the event with his partner and fellow organizer Dave Emeott, expressed satisfaction with the turnout as the sun beamed down on him.
“We’ve had beautiful weather,” Patterson said. “It’s good. That’s been perfect and you have 300 kids come through here and nobody’s gotten hurt. A lot of people are from out of town.
“In fact, 75 percent are from out of state and they think this is what it’s like in Grand Haven every day,” he said with a smile.
The event’s popularity is a direct correlation with its uniqueness. Patterson said his goal was to offer something unique to a number of athletes.
“The main aim was to give kids the venue that they would be excited to come to,” he said. “Most (pole vaulting competitions) are held in high school stadiums. They were doing (a beach vault) in California… we really took it and brought it to the next level.”
Many of the competitors said they enjoyed the welcoming environment of the event.
Kurt Darling, the College Men’s Division 1 champion this weekend, reflected on the event.
“This is my first time here at beach vault. I’ve never been able to fork over the money to come here,” the 21-year-old from Indiana State University said with a chuckle. “But finally I was able to afford it this year, and I came down here, and it’s just a fun event. … You want to be able to jump good, but it’s on a sandy surface, and it’s never going to be level, so you just look to have fun.”
Many of the athletes expressed an admiration for the competitive atmosphere.
“It’s the camaraderie,” said Laura Borovsky, 29, who hails from Royal Oak. She won the Women’s 25-29 division “You meet people throughout the years. You want to come back to see them jump and support them. They support you.
“It’s a very tight community — girls and guys. Especially as you get older into the Masters’ Division with everyone complaining about their aches and pains,” she said with a laugh.
A large crowd turned out to take in the spectacle, which was held on the City Beach. Those competing in the vault also cheered each other on, a testament to the tight-knit community that pole vaulters belong to.
“That’s how it always is,” Kurt Darling said. “Pole vault is very different from the rest of the events in track and field. In track, you’re always looking to beat the other guy at all costs.
“And in vaulting, yeah, you’re looking to do that same thing, but at the same time, everybody helps everybody out,” the 21-year-old from Indiana State University said. “It actually makes the sport a lot more fun when everybody is courteous and willing to help everybody out.”
By Keith Allison, Tribune Intern