By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
A Moapa Valley athlete was recently able to participate in a rare opportunity. MVHS senior and pole vaulting athlete, Josh Lee travelled to the annual Simplot Games track and field event held at Idaho State University on February 15.
Lee signed up for the event online and made the trip up to Pocatello, Idaho with his family. Expenses for his trip were all paid by a sponsorship from the local Simplot Silica operation.
“We travelled with the poles on top of the van,” said Lee of the long trip.
The 40th annual Simplot Games brought more than 2300 track athletes together to compete in many different events. The field for pole vaulters alone yielded roughly 48 competitors.
The tournament went on throughout all three days of the President’s Day weekend.
On the first day, the qualifying round was held. The opening height for the qualifying round was 13 feet, 3 inches. Having cleared much higher bars before, Lee confidently cleared it on his first attempt and moved onto the finals. Twenty-three other athletes also made it into Saturday’s competition.
The opening height for the finals would be 13 feet, 9 inches. Lee said his personal record going into the meet was 13 feet, 10 inches, over a bar.
Lee said he was a bit nervous about making that opening height. Due to a change of pace, Lee blew through his pole on his first attempt. Despite switching his pole up for his second and third try, the results came out the same. Lee finished with no height in the finals.
But he was far from disappointed with the outcome.
“It was pretty exciting to compete,” Lee said. “It was cool because everyone there were pretty good athletes. It was good to know that I didn’t no-height because I missed the bars. It was because I was going faster and I had hit better positions on all my takeoffs and blew through all of the poles that I had,” the Moapa Valley senior explained.
Lee faced tough competition at the Simplot Games meet. Athletes had traveled from all over the country to participate in the meet, including from locations like New Zealand, Norway, and Canada. He was one of six participants to hail from Nevada. For comparison, the vaulter that ended up claiming the top spot in the field cleared a winning height of 17 feet, 8.5 inches.
“I learned that you’re not going to go there and make a height every time,” Lee said. “That was my first time no-heighting, so that was a new experience. It was cool to see people who maybe had a PR of 13 feet and then make the opening height. Then they somehow cleared 13’ 9” as well and got two PRs in the same weekend.”
He also expressed the uniqueness of his sport, by adding, “Pole vault isn’t like most sports. In a lot of sports you hope they miss something so you can win but in pole vault you root for everyone and hope they can get their best mark.”
Lee said that he was happy with his experience at the Simplot Games. “It’ll push me to do better,” he said. “I wasn’t upset about not getting a height because it was exciting to know that I already need bigger poles and am running faster. It’s going to be a good season.”
Lee expressed appreciation to Simplot Silica for sponsoring him on his trip up north. After being able to participate in a rare opportunity, Lee is optimistic about the upcoming track season.
With that season just around the corner, Lee is getting a jump start on the season and has high expectations. Along with his trip up to Idaho for this meet, Lee has been training in Las Vegas as well with a personal coach, Robert Tilley. “He’s been helping out a lot and I’ve been ahead of the game,” Lee said. “I’m probably expecting at least 14 feet in the first meet.”