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Reporter's Notebook: A Dancer Pole Vaults

Kay Glynn is a standout at the 2009 Senior Games, excelling in a sport—pole vaulting—that women were not even allowed to learn when she was a high school athlete.

The 56-year-old, now a grandmother of three, arrived at the pole vault pit on Saturday morning—her first appearance at the games—and proceeded to warm up with the dexterity of a dancer, doing cartwheels and a split, landing with legs horizontal on the surface of Stanford’s Cobb Track.

Between her stints as a high school long-jump star and a masters pole-vaulting sensation, Glynn taught dance at a school that she formerly ran. “I call that my 30 years of cross training,” she says with a laugh.

That training has served her well, particularly in the pole vault, an event that requires a combination of skills also found in top dancers: agility, style, power and panache.

Watching Glynn barrel down the track like a sprinter, plant a large stick midstride and then propel herself nine feet into the air, one can see why this event is in some ways as much performance art as it is sport. And Glynn has put on quite a performance at the National Senior Games, earning three gold meals in the pole vault, long jump and high jump, a silver in the shot put and a bronze in the triple jump.

She also competed in other events in keeping with the “just try it” spirit of the games, which she clearly enjoys. “This is like a state fair,” she says, “Everybody’s here. … It’s awesome!”

Like any of the other serious competitors, she trains hard, although unlike most, her gym is in the backyard of the farm where she and her husband live in Hastings, Iowa. There, among the farm buildings and the cornfields, she has set up a pole-vault and long-jump pit, a high-jump area and a practice area where she throws the shot and the javelin. “I had to move the javelin pit because we got a satellite dish,” she laughs.

Since her first appearance on the track Glynn has been surrounded by friends, officials and a film crew. And action photos of her have appeared regularly in the games’ newspaper, circulated daily among competitors.

She is clearly a star.

Health and fitness writer John Hanc teaches journalism at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury.

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