March 25, 2022 — On the morning of March 23, the City of Florence shut down Bay Street, from Maple to Laurel Streets, so Chris Johnson and his Siuslaw High track and field team could stage a pole vault competition right on the street, between the Beachcomber and Traveler’s Cove.
Before sunup Brian Lacouture, father of SHS pole vaulter Camp Lacouture, arrived with a trailer holding all the components needed for assembly of the runway. By 11 a.m. when a crowd had begun to arrive and warm-ups were scheduled to begin, assembly had been completed and they were ready to go.
At noon when the first vaulters began the trip down the runway over one hundred spectators had gathered for this unique event staged in Historic Old Town Florence. Some were watching while sipping microbrews in front of the Beachcomber. Some had brought lawn chairs and were gathered on the street around the runway. Some watched from windows above the shops that line downtown.
For two hours locals and tourists alike cheered on pole vaulters from Bandon, Coos Bay, Eugene, Florence and North Bend as they launched themselves through the air to ever increasing heights.
The event was not an official Oregon School Athletic Association event, meaning the athlete’s vaults wouldn’t count towards their regular track and field season records or state qualifying marks. That did not stop the vaulters that competed from putting on a display of pole vaulting unlike anything seen, ever.
In fact, the performance put on by 14-year old Addison Kleinke was something that, if this had been an officially sanctioned event, would have been record setting.
Kleinke, who is from Eugene, cleared 13'6" on her last successful vault. That vault would have crushed the Oregon record for a 14-year old female. It may have even broken the United States girls 14-year old record.
Making her performance even more remarkable, when Kleinke woke up on Wednesday morning she hadn’t even heard of the Florence Street Vault. When she went to bed that night, she had beaten all but two high boys, both at least 3 years her elder.
“I woke up at 9:30 today to my mom basically knocking my door down talking about a street vault in Florence,” said Kleinke. “We made it a little late, but I pulled through thanks to the amazing energy of the crowd and vaulters. So thankful for the people who put this meet together and all of my supporters in the crowd and on the runway. Met some amazing people and truly surprised myself today.”
The highest pole vaults this year for a high school girl in Oregon is 11’6” by Mackenzie Walker of St. Mary’s. Kleinke had a jump of 13’6” on Bay Street Wednesday. She’s only an 8th grader at Connections Academy, an online school.
Amazingly, Kleinke is somewhat new to the sport only taking it up as a pastime during COVID lockdowns. Her future is bright.
Two vaulters from Coos Bay bested Kleinke at the event. Jonathan Parks cleared 14’6” and Trent Summers won the event when he vaulted over 15’.
The event would have never occurred without its sponsors Stitch and Sole, Nike and Zolezzi Insurance.
Also, a ton of hard work was required to set up and take down of the runway, a lot of it done by Camp Lacouture and Kyle Hughes who also, remarkably, competed in the event.
“We did a lot of physical labor to get it done,” said Johnson. “I don’t know how Camp and Kyle had the energy to run down there and back. I was too tired to hit record on my iPad.”
Brain Lacouture and the entire SHS track team were also essential in the assembly and removal of the runway.
Titled the “1st Annual” Florence Street Vault, fans and vaulters agree that they hope this becomes an annual event held in Old Town for years to come.
The Siuslaw High track and field team’s next event is April 2 when they travel to Eugene for the Marist Invite. Start time is to be announced.