Derek Miles and friends electrify DakotaDome crowd

Derek Miles and friends electrify DakotaDome crowd
Derek Miles had plenty to smile about at the conclusion of the Derek Miles and Friends Pole Vault Competition held Saturday, Jan. 19, in the DakotaDome.

The turnout couldn't have been better. Nearly 3,000 people came to the Dome that chilly Saturday afternoon to view the competition.

He also was very appreciative of the nine other participants in the competition, who made time in their schedules to travel to South Dakota.

There was just one thing he wished he could change, reflecting briefly after the competition had ended and the athletes had signed the last autographs for adoring fans.

He wished he could have gone higher that day.

"I was running out of gas at the very end – my legs were giving out – so that was tough," he said. "I was in the Dome until 1 a.m. this morning helping the lighting guy set up, and the night before I got into bed at about 4 a.m. after picking everybody up at the airport.

"But it's all for the fun of the meet," he said. "It's not necessarily to come out here and set good marks; people really just want to have a good time."

Miles was extremely pleased that so many of the premiere pole vaulters in the nation took time to participate in the event.

"I think we're really fortunate to have those guys come out here," he said. "It's tough to make everybody's schedule and come from all different parts of the country, so it's great to have all those guys come here and be a part of this."

Competitors at the Derek Miles and Friends exhibition included Jeff Hartwig, the American pole vault record holder and six-time national champion; Tim Mack, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist and Olympic record holder; Toby "Crash" Stevenson, the 2004 Olympic Silver medalist; Nick Hysong, the 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist; Brad Walker, the 2007 world champion; Tye Harvey, former silver medalist at the World Championships; as well as Jeremy Scott, Jacob Pauli, Sam Pribyl and Miles.

Pauli decided not to compete in the exhibition after suffering a slight injury while warming up.

Had these top athletes been thrust into a competitive setting rather a friendly setting, Miles admitted, all would be striving to do their best.

"We come in and we hang out and we're all friends, and once meet starts," Miles said, "it's like everyone is going to win. It's kind of an interesting line to walk, but we never have any issues with it.

"Everybody is always real friendly, we all get along great, we're great friends, and at times we're all trying to win," he said.

Miles has three goals for 2008: training, staying smart and being healthy.

"If you can stay healthy and continue to pole vault, then you're doing everything that you need to do," he said. "Right now, I'm just going to keep building off what we're doing and keep our foot on the gas and see how the next month plays out."

Miles' February schedule is quickly filling up. He will be in Sweden Jan. 30, fly back to New York on Feb. 1, and then travel back to Europe. He will be Germany Feb. 10, and travel to Ukraine on Feb. 16 before flying to Boston on Feb. 23.

"It's going to be busy, but it's going to be fun," he said.

The Derek Miles and Friends competition began in 2005 with Miles and Hartwig engaged in competition. Two years ago, Stevenson joined Miles and Hartwig at the USD competition. This year's event included the largest contingent of world class vaulters ever in South Dakota.

"Something like this won't happen in South Dakota many times," said USD head men's track and field coach Dave Gottsleben. "This is happening out of the respect these kids have for Derek Miles, and out of the respect Derek Miles has for The University of South Dakota. He's one of our coaches now, he's on our staff, so he's doing some double duty there as well as training for Olympic trials, which he has already qualified for.

"We're very fortunate to have Derek involved, and very proud of that, too," he said.

Gottsleben said the athletes themselves best described the unique relationship they share.

"When it's competition, they aren't super friends," he said. "But as soon as the competition is over, they are great friends and they support each other. And it's more of an effort to elevate the sport of track and field."

Gottsleben said all 10 of the individuals that traveled to Jan. 19 pole vault event at the DakotaDome are top professionals in the sport.

"These are guys that are on the same level as professional football players," he said. "They don't get paid as much, they don't the notoriety, but these are big-time people, and it's not easy to be professional track and field athlete financially."


Miles and Brad Walker, electrified the DakotaDome crowd by clearing 18'05 in the pole vault competition.

Walker, who is the reigning 2007 World Outdoor champion, ended the day tied with Miles, an Olympian (2004), who has the world's best indoor vault this year of 19'0.25 (Reno Vault Summit).

Hartwig finished third at the USD competition by clearing 18'01. With his vault, Hartwig, who is the American indoor and outdoor record holder, established a world record for the 40-year age group.

Final Totals

Tie 1st: Derek Miles, Brad Walker, 18'05.

Third: Jeff Hartwig, 18'01.

Fourth (tie): Jeremy Scott, Toby Stevenson, 17'09.

Sixth (tie): Tye Harvey, Tim Mack, 17'05.

No Height: Sam Pribyl, Nick Hysong.

Competitor Bios

  • Derek Miles, who was a member of the 2004 Olympic Team, was inducted into the Henry Heider Memorial Coyote Sports Hall of Fame in fall 2006. Miles earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1996 and a master's degree in athletic administration in 1998 from USD. A Division II All-American while competing for USD (1991-96), Miles has the best jump in the world (19'0.25) this year. He finished seventh at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and was ranked fifth in the world at the end of the 2005 season. He was ranked #2 in the U.S. by Track and Field News in 2005. Miles owns a personal best of 19-2.50 that he set at the DakotaDome in 2005, which was the seventh-best vault in the world that year. In 2003, he was the USA Indoor champion and was fifth at the World Outdoor competition.
  • Jeff Hartwig of Jonesboro, AR, is the Indoor and Outdoor American record holder. Hartwig, who finished third at the 2008 Reno Summit, was the 1999 World Indoor silver medalist, 1998 Goodwill Games champion, four-time USA Outdoor champion and two-time USA Indoor champion, including in 2007. Hartwig is the world record holder for the 40-year age group and has a personal-best of 19'9.25.
  • Tye Harvey of Jonesboro, AR, was the 2001 World Indoor silver medalist and finished second in both 2000 and 2001 at the USA Indoor Championships.
  • Nick Hysong of Phoenix, AZ, won the Olympic Gold Medal in the pole vault by going 19'04.25 at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Hysong, who won NCAA Division I and Pac-10 titles in 1994 at Arizona State, also finished third at the 2001 World Championships.
  • Tim Mack of Cleveland, OH, was the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist. He was also the 2002 U.S. Indoor Champion and the 2001 Goodwill Games winner. A 1995 NCAA Indoor champion at Tennessee, he has a personal-best and Olympic record vault of 19'6.25.

    Jacob Pauli of Cedar Falls, IA, finished third at the 2007 AT&T USA Outdoor Championships. He is a three-time NCAA Outdoor All-American who won two Missouri Valley Conference Championships while competing for Northern Iowa. Pauli has a career-best of 19'0.25.

  • Sam Pribyl, who is originally from Webster, is a six-time Division II All-American who won six NCC titles at USD. He owns the USD and State of South Dakota pole vault record with his vault of 17'08.5 in 2006.

    Jeremy Scott of Brookland, AK, recently finished fifth at the Reno Pole Vault Summit. He has a personal-best of 18'10.25. He is originally from Norfolk, NE.

  • Toby "Crash" Stevenson, who participated in the competition at USD two years ago, was the silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games. A former NCAA champion (1998) while competing for Stanford, he lives in Chula Vista, CA. Stevenson, who finished second at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in January, owns a career-best vault of 19'08.25 (2004).
  • Brad Walker of Mountlake Terrance, WA, is arguably America's best vaulter with a personal-best of 19'08.25 in 2006. Born in Aberdeen, Walker was the 2007 World Outdoor champion, the 2006 World Indoor champion and the 2005 World Outdoor silver medalist. A two-time NCAA Indoor champion while at Washington, he was the first athlete in Pac-10 history to clear 19 feet.
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