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Shawn Barber, in a more tye-dyed age, photo by PhotoRun.net  



Zip Vault Star Soars 5.87m, Sets New Collegiate Record

The emergence of a truly exceptional high school track & field athlete – even one who sets a national high school record – frequently generates a fair amount of quiet skepticism. Has the athlete peaked? Will the unwavering focus essential to move up to the next performance level be maintained? Any such reservations about collegiate pole vault star Shawn Barber – who still holds the U.S. national high school pole vault record of 18’3½” he set in 2012 – should certainly vanish in light of the spectacular manner by which the University of Akron junior has kicked off his 2015 indoor season.

In early January, at Texas’ Pole Vault Explosion VI, Barber – already the victor – unfurled a magnificent first-attempt clearance of 5.87m [19’3”]. For Barber – who has dual United States / Canadian citizenship – his PR vault raised his own Canadian indoor record [5.75m / 18’10¼”] and bettered the previous collegiate indoor mark of 5.85m [19’2¼”] set by Texas vaulter Jacob Davis in 1999. The successful vault by the 2014 Commonwealth Games PV bronze medalist is also the world leader. To put Barber’s accomplishment in global perspective, in all of 2014 only WR holder Renaud Lavillenie and Germany’s Malte Mohr jumped higher.

The following weekend, Barber cleared 5.80m [19’½”] to capture the University of Akron’s Pole Vault Convention. In his first two indoor meets, Barber’s winning 19+ feet clearances – #1 and #2 on the WL list – dispatched his vault nemesis Nike’s Sam Kendricks. "I know it is going to be a long season this year,” the new collegiate record holder admits. “So I just want to get some momentum and keep it going."

“I don’t think [the record vault] changes very much,” states the 20-year old Texas native who is the NCAA’s 2014 indoor vault champion and the outdoor runner-up. “I will compete at the Armory Invitational later this month and then I want to get ready for the MAC Championship meet, the indoor nationals, and of course try to save something in the tank for outdoors.” The Canadian outdoor nationals – where Barber is the two-time defending champion – and a hoped-for second appearance at the IAAF Outdoor Championships in Beijing are also on his schedule.

Barber’s steadily higher clearances over the past two years have been stunning – advancing his PR by nearly a foot. The Zip’s prodigious progression prompts speculation about just how high he can go. The Canadian national record holder – careful not to place limitations on how high he can vault – is uncertain. “As long as I can keep getting better, stay out of trouble, and stay away from injury, I think I’ll keep going and see how far I can take it,” explains Barber. And with a smile, the world leader adds, “That’s what I’m waiting for. I’m waiting to find out.” We all are.


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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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