Track and Field: Olympians provide camp for pole vaulters

By: Henry Apple
Published: Saturday, June 17, 2017
April Steiner Bennett (left), a former Arkansas and Olympic pole vaulter, works with camper Madison Sanders, 15, of Marianna, Friday, June 16, 2017, during instruction for pole vaulters at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville. Steiner Bennett and Stacy Dragila, a former Olympic pole vaulter and 2000 Olympic gold medalist, were on hand for two days of intensive instruction for vaulters from elementary to high school.
Photo by Andy Shupe
April Steiner Bennett (left), a former Arkansas and Olympic pole vaulter, works with camper Madison Sanders, 15, of Marianna, Friday, June 16, 2017, during instruction for pole vaulters at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville. Steiner Bennett and Stacy Dragila, a former Olympic pole vaulter and 2000 Olympic gold medalist, were on hand for two days of intensive instruction for vaulters from elementary to high school.

FAYETTEVILLE -- There was no need for April Steiner Bennett to persuade Stacy Dragila to bring one of her pole vault camps to Northwest Arkansas.

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April Steiner Bennett (right), a former University of Arkansas and Olympic pole vaulter, works with campers Friday at Ramay ... + Enlarge

The two have been partners in the Stacy Dragila Vault Camps for the past seven years, and Dragila -- the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in that event -- was fully aware of the success the area has enjoyed, especially at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Steiner Bennett competed for the Razorbacks and participated in the 2008 Olympics. She's part of a pole vault tradition that includes Tina Sutej, Sandi Morris and twin sisters Lexi and Tori Weeks.

"I know the history of pole vault in the area," Dragila said. "And I knew April had started a club when she was training here. So my first thought was would we have the numbers. I knew we had the claim here, but I didn't know if we had the numbers.

"April said we had clubs where we could pull kids, and we have a lot of kids in the area that do the pole vault in outlying towns that may not have coaching during the season. We're all about giving back to kids, especially those who don't have coaching during the season. I said let's give it a try, and April hit the ground running."

Not everything is done with poles, bars and mats during the camp, which began Thursday at Ramay Junior High and concludes today with a competition round. Campers have also spent time in the classroom, where they have been instructed on things such as the time in the weight room, gymnastics and even time spent learning the physics around the vault, and they were able to hear stories Thursday from 2016 Olympic pole vaulters Morris and Lexi Weeks.

The result was 20 youths, ages 10 and older, who have participated in the camp. Dragila said there were similar numbers during a previous first-time camp in Boise, Idaho, and both she and Steiner Bennett were pleased with the initial results in this area.

"I'm really big on paying it forward," Steiner Bennett said. "We really need to be able to build up the youth that we have around us. This is a village, and we all need each other.

"These young girls, they need that inspiration and need that motivation. They need someone who will help them dig and drive and find places that they didn't know they could reach and get to those heights. This event, it's weird how it feeds a lot of pieces of life and help you deal with things outside the pole vault. They get a good package here when we coach the youth."

Dragila compares the instructions they provide campers to an advanced placement class in their sport, and the teaching doesn't end when the camp is over. Campers are provided with a number of training tools that they can take to their coaches for use throughout the year.

There are also plans in the future for another pole vault to be in the area for years to come.

"The response we received here was fantastic," Steiner Bennett said. "The area coaches are really supportive and the Arkansas coaches have been responsive. The first year, we have a great numbers of kids, and we hope to continue to build on that."

Sports on 06/17/2017

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