Grand Haven Beach Vault kisses the skyline

Duncan MacLean • Jul 17, 2017 at 12:14 AM

Athletes of all ages got the chance to kiss the sky this weekend at the state park as Beach Vault returned to the shores of Lake Michigan.

The tournament featured pole vaulters from all over the country, ranging in ages from 14 through 75. Men, women, boys and girls all took a crack at the record board on a cloudless Grand Haven summer day.

Since 2002, Dave Emeott and Kevin Patterson have been throwing the best beach vault in town. Formally heading up a vaulting event in Rockford, the pair decided to make the switch to the sand 16 years ago. The event has been a highlight for the national pole vaulting community ever since.

“Being on Lake Michigan with the sand and the surf and all the people and the great vaulting conditions, there is a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. It’s just a great place to jump,” Jole Sterk said of the event.

Sterk finished his Saturday as a champion, taking home the men’s 45-50 title with a jump of 13 feet.

With age groups ranging from U14 to 75+, the community was out in full force at the beach. From amateurs to young stars to grizzled vets, there was a bar for everyone.

Howard Booth, a 73-year-old Eastern Michigan graduate and professor, took home the gold in his men’s 70-75 year old bracket as the oldest competing athlete.

“It is a kid still playing,” he said of his desire to continue the gravity-defying sport. “It is challenging, but it rewards good fitness, staying in condition, eating healthy, all those good things.”

Booth, a former physiology professor at Eastern, said he was living what he preached as a septuagenarian pole vaulter, but it isn’t all about good habits.

“It is great fun,” he said. “It represents across many generations. The challenge of it is what keeps the 13-year-old here and the 73-year-old saying, ‘wow, this is fun, exciting stuff.’”

The challenge and fun of jumping is powerful enough to break a 40-year hiatus, and apparently is as easy to pick back up as riding a bike, with the right equipment.

After vaulting in high school and college, Booth figured he was done with the sport and hung up his spikes in favor of fitness-focused distance running, before an unlikely experiment in his backyard drew him back in.

“I figured I was done after college, I thought, ‘I don’t have the time to keep doing this or stay in condition for it.’ I took 40 years off to be a runner and then came back to it as a 61-year-old.

“It was the Michigan Senior Olympics, I was looking through a pamphlet thinking I was going to run a 5k and do the bench press, when I saw pole vaulting and thought, ‘I wonder if I can still do that.’ I went out into my backyard and cut down a maple sapling and got off the ground a few times and said, ‘I can still do this.’’

Since the rediscovery, Booth has claimed two world championships in his age division, and has been an annual participant in the Grand Haven beach vault.

With his 74th birthday closing in, Booth is excited about the bump to the 75+ age group, saying a lot of pressure goes into being the young kid on the block.

It wasn’t just high-flying seniors clearing bars this weekend; lets take a look at the results from the rest of the divisions.


Boys U14

Kyler Probst, Normal IL- 11-9

Liam Mcgill, Bloomington IL- 11-3

Isaiah Terry, Prospect KY-11-3

Girls U14

Windsor Roberts, Windsor IL- 10-0

Amber Vroman, Seneca IL- 9-6

Sidney Heugel, Allendale MI- 9-6

Boys High School Elite

Zachery Bradford, Bloomington IL- 16-1

William Williamson, Winamac IN- 15-6

Austin Goolsby, Hill- 15-0

Girls High School Elite

Gabby Leon, Garn- 12-0

Aliyah Welter, Monticello IL- 12-0

Deidra Marrison, Austinburg OH-12-0

Mens College A

Noah Gary, Dexter MI- 15-9

Ethan Bray, Fishers IN-15-9

Matthew Dwyer, Palos Heights IL- 15-3

Womens College A

Danielle Wojciechowski, Roselle IL- 12-6

Andrianna Andy Jacobs, Rochester MN- 12-0

Stephanie Lambeth, Birch Run MI-12-0

Men Elite 1 Invite

Sean Young, Titusville FL- 17-0

Mike Vani, Jonesboro AR- 17-0

Drew Volz, Bloomington IL-17-0

Women Elite 1 Invite

Kristen Hixson, Remus MI- 14-6

Jacqueline Williams, Lafayette IN- 13-0

Rebecca Szabo, North Olmsted OH- 13-0

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