By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
Four Moapa Valley athletes participated in the 2017 Utah Summer Games held at Southern Utah University in Cedar City earlier this month. Overton residents Rick Bush and Mardon Connelly joined with Logandale residents Brett Lee and Joshua Lee at the Games, to compete in the Track and Field, Pole Vault event which was held on Saturday, June 17.
Each athlete competed in his respective age group at the event.
The games bring together athletes of all ages and abilities from throughout the region. It draws an average total of 9,600 participants, competing in more than 30 different sporting events from Archery to Arm Wrestling; Racquetball to Wrestling; Basketball to Bass Fishing; and, of course, Track and Field.
The local group of athletes made an excellent showing at the Games.
At age 76, Connelly was the senior among the local competitors, and among pole vaulting competitors in general at the meet. He competed in the age 75-79 mens’ division and vaulted to a height of 9-0.00.
Connelly is no stranger to these competitions. He has been competing in regional and national pole vaulting meets for many years now. His first Utah Summer Games appearance was in 2014 when he set a record for the 70-74 age division, also with a height of 9-0.00. He has competed in the Games every year since then, taking first place in his division each year. Last year as he first entered the 75-79 age division, he set a new record for the division at 9-0.00.
Connelly has been pole vaulting since he was in high school. He grew up in Overton and graduated from Moapa Valley High School in 1959. Of course, he competed as a pole vaulter on the school’s track and field team.
Rick Bush, 42, competed in the age 40-44 mens’ division. He took third place in the division with a vault of 10-00.00.
Bush took the gold medal in the division in 2015 with a height of 10-00.00. Last year, he reached 11-00.00 and was awarded the silver in the division.
Bush said that this year’s performance was complicated by a combination of a stiff headwind and his use of a new, heavier lb. pole. He said that he had only been using the pole for about three weeks.
“The wind was shifting and moving during the meet,” Bush said. “It is hard to determine which pole to use at each vault. Sometimes you just have to stick with a pole and hope for the best. Some days it works out for you and some days it doesn’t.”
Bush was also an MVHS Track and Field athlete. He actually started pole vaulting in sixth grade on the junior high team.
When he moved on to high school he gave up pole vaulting for a time and focused on hurdles and high jumps. He was a two-time state champion for the Pirates in the high jump, holding the regional record until it was broken last year by MVHS athlete, RJ Hubert. He was also a state champion in 300 meter hurdles.
Bush competed in college track at UNLV where he returned to pole vaulting as part of competing in the decathlon event. He has been pole vaulting ever since.
He is currently the pole vaulting coach for the MVHS track and field team where he has served for the past nine years.
Brett Lee, 37, competed in the 35-39 division at the Games. He finished first in his division with a vault of 12-00.00.
Brett Lee also competed in the 2015 Games where he also took the gold medal for his age group at a height of 11-00.00. Brett is also a MVHS alumnus and was a Pirate pole vault competitor.
Joshua Lee, who just finished his junior year at MVHS, competed in the 17-18 division at the Games. He was won second place with a height of 13-06.00.
Josh competed in the 15-16 age division last year taking first place with a height of 11-06.00.
Last season, Josh was the top pole vaulting athlete on the MVHS track team. A remarkable season won him a place at the State Championship meet in May. There he placed second in the state with a vault of 13-06.00.
Josh said that he enjoyed the in formal, off-season competition of the Utah Summer Games.
“It is a pretty relaxing thing, actually,” he said. “It’s not a state meet or anything stressful. It is just fun to go and keep up your skills during the off season. It gives a reason to practice more and it is pretty low stress.”