Former Coyote, Olympian Miles to lead pole vaulters at special event here

Former Coyote, Olympian Miles to lead pole vaulters at special event here
Former Coyote and Olympian Derek Miles is bringing his pole vaulting friends back to The University of South Dakota for a special event on Saturday, Feb. 18.

This event will feature some of the world's top vaulters, including USD graduate Miles, American record holder Jeff Hartwig, Olympian Toby "Crash" Stevenson, as well as Tye Harvey, former Norfolk, NE, native Jeremy Scott and current USD vaulter Sam Pribyl of Webster.

The Derek Miles and Friends Pole Vault Competition, which is being held for the third straight year, will follow the John Dalton Open, which will conclude at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. �

The John Dalton Open competition will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday with high school field events. Collegiate events will open at 9 a.m. �

According to USD women's track coach Lucky Huber, the DakotaDome will be host to the greatest collection of pole vaulting talent ever in the state of South Dakota.

"This is a great opportunity for the people of South Dakota and this region to again experience world class pole vaulting," said Huber, who coached Miles while he attended USD in the mid-1990s and later at the 2004 Olympics games in Athens, Greece.

USD men's coach Dave Gottsleben said coaches, area high school athletes and track and field fans and others have a rare chance to see these world class vaulters up close.

"Bleachers will be set up near the vault pit and we will show this event live on our scoreboard. As part of the program, we will feature replays of each jump, as well as provide special features on the vaulters and more. It will truly be a wonderful chance for track and field aficionados to watch the world's best, including a couple of guys that grew up (Miles, Scott) next door. We are very excited about this event," Gottsleben said.

Miles, who finished seventh at the Athens Olympics in 2004, was ranked fifth in the world at the end of the 2005 season. Miles, a 1996 graduate of USD, currently resides in Jonesboro, AR. He holds a personal best of 19-2.50 that he set at the DakotaDome a year ago. His jump was the seventh best in the world last year.

Miles was the USA Indoor champion in 2003 and fifth at the World Outdoors that year. Miles, who is married to former USD standout Tori Devericks, enters the indoor vault competition ranked fourth in the world and third in the U.S. by the Track and Field News.

"The energy and atmosphere of this competition is incredible," said Miles. "The people of South Dakota really know how to make it a great competition with the energy they bring. It definitely ranks as one of the best meets we compete at, and I think, it is why more elite athletes want to jump there," said Miles.

Hartwig, the indoor and outdoor American record-holder at 19-9, will compete in Vermillion for the third time. Hartwig, who will try and vault over 19 feet for the 100th time of his career, is the hottest vaulter coming into the competition. He has won the Millrose Games (18'09.5) in New York City and he also won the Tyson Invitational (18'08) which was held recently at the University of Arkansas. A resident of Jonesboro, AR, Hartwig is a four-time USA Outdoor champion (1998, '99, '02, '03) and a member of the 1996 Olympic team. Hartwig was the USA Indoor runner up at 18-10.25. He was the 1999 World Indoor silver medalist and the 1998 Goodwill Games champion.

"My vaulting is going really well right now," said Hartwig. "The atmosphere (at the Dome) is the best. It is really great to jump in front of a good crowd who is cheering and smiling," he said.

Stevenson, of Chula Vista, CA, and a graduate of Stanford, was the silver medalist at Athens with a personal best 19-8. A member of the Nike Track club, Stevenson was the 2004 USA Indoor champion. At Stanford, Stevenson was a six-time All-American, including a national title in 1998. Stevenson is currently ranked sixth in the world and third in the U.S. by Track and Field News.

Like Hartwig and Miles, Stevenson likes the Dome's atmosphere.

"The best part about coming back to the DakotaDome to jump is that fan support that we receive," said Stevenson. "You can go anywhere if the energy is right and the people in South Dakota make it right."

Scott, labeled as the future of the vault, stands at 6-10. He competed for the national champion University of Arkansas in 2004, placing fourth at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships. He finished second at the USA Indoor in 2003 and holds a personal record of 18-8.25.

Scott owns the Division III record (18-1) for the vault while competing for Allegheny College. A former Nebraska state high school champion (1999), he was the 2002 outdoor champion in Division III In 2004, he was an Olympic Trials qualifier and set the Arkansas school record at 18-3. In 2005, he finished fourth at the Millrose Games and was a medalist at the USA Indoor Championships.

Harvey, a 1998 graduate of Minnesota, has also been a member of the Bell Athletic club. He is a former 2001 World Indoor silver medalist and finished second at the USA Indoor meet in 2000 and 2001. He was second at the NCAA Indoor meet in 1997. He has a personal best of 19'5.5, which he made in 2001. He finished fourth at the Olympic Trials in 2004.

Pribyl, a four-time All-American, is one of the top Division II vaulters in the country. He has a personal best of 17'05, which he made at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays in 2005. He also owns the NCC outdoor conference meet mark with a vault of 17'03.�

All athletes will sign autographs and visit with fans following the competition.

"In return for the support we receive, we want to reward the crowd with a great performance," said Miles. "I think it is possible that we could see a world-leading performance on Saturday," said Miles.

Besides the support, these vaulters have become good friends and enjoy jumping together, whether it is at a major championship or a special event at the Dome.

"We are all just a little crazy to be doing what we are doing and we understand that," said Stevenson. "We all feel that the pole vault is the best thing going and we are a small fraternity. It is one of the best perks of the job � the friendships I have made."

But the main reason they come here or elsewhere is the passion these athletes carry for their sport. Hartwig noted that "fun" is the reason he stays in his game, even as he approaches 37 years of age.

"Pole vaulting is the most fun and challenging thing I have ever tried to do. It is like the never-ending jigsaw puzzle where you are always trying to find ways to fit all the pieces together."

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