Year Of The Vault: Barber Breaks the Men’s Collegiate Record; Payne Wins Historic Showdown

Year Of The Vault: Barber Breaks the Men’s Collegiate Record; Payne Wins Historic Showdown

Surprise, surprise. We had a new collegiate pole vault record today. And we nearly had two.

Those unfamiliar with the Year of the Vault‘s plot twists and turns would have assumed that we’d seen the best the collegiate pole vault had to offer today when Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin came up just short of breaking her own women’s indoor collegiate record at New Mexico to win the first-ever showdown of three career 15-foot collegiate vaulters over former college record holders Sandi Morris of Arkansas and Kaitlin Petrillose of Texas, the defending national champion (more on all of this later)

Not so fast.

About an hour later and on the other side of the country in Akron, Ohio, Shawn Barber of Akron stole the headlines with a men’s indoor pole vault collegiate record of his own. The Canadian needed just one attempt at 15-3½ (5.88m) to get up and over for a new collegiate standard – surpassing the old standard of 19-2¼ (5.85m) set by Texas’ Jacob Davis in 1999.


With the college record – and an improvement on his own Canadian record – under his belt, why not raise the bar another 12 centimeters to 6.00m to try to surpass the outdoor college standard of 19-7½ (5.98m)? That’s exactly what he did, but he missed it three times.

Believe it or not, Barber’s historic effort made this weekend the third of 2015 in which a collegiate pole vault record was set. That’s without counting his unattached, non-Akron-uniformed exhibition mark of 19-3 (5.87m) set at the Texas Vault Expo in early January.

Since that performance, today’s official supplantation of the record has always been considered a "when" rather than an "if".

Let’s dig into the numbers on Barber’s record vault.

0 – The number of misses Barber recorded en route to his first-attempt collegiate-record clearance. The way he arrived at 5.88m might be even more impressive than the height itself. He came in at 5.35m. First try clearance. 5.50m? One and done. 5.65m? Uno. 5.80m, to tie his No. 5 jump in collegiate history? You guessed it: first attempt, after getting this height on his third attempt last week to win at The Armory. His only misses came at 6.00m.


27 – The number of men in the history of the world who have ever vaulted higher indoors. He tied the Ukraine’s Maksym Mazuryk at No. 28 on the all-time IAAF performers list with the vault. Since the turn of the new millennium in the year 2000, only 13 men in the have gone higher than Barber’s 5.88m indoors.


6 – The height in meters at which he went out on three consecutive misses. To put into perspective how rarified the air into which Barber was launching himself was, consider this: since the year 2000, only four men have reached the six-meter barrier indoors. Only eight men have ever done it indoors, period.


5 – The number of times Barber has cleared 19 feet/5.80 meters this season, including his en-route 5.80m today. Beyond today’s marks, he’s gone 19-3 (5.80m) at the Texas Vault Expo, and 19-¼ (5.80m) twice at the Akron Pole Vault Convention and the Armory Invitational.


8 – The number of 19 feet/5.80m jumps in collegiate indoor history prior to this 2015 season. Prior to the start of this season, the last man to break that threshold had been Brad Walker of Washington, who jumped exactly that high in 2003. He’s the only other collegian to do so since the turn of the new millennium. The only other men to do it more than once were Istvan Bagyula of George Mason (three times) and Lawrence Johnson of Tennessee (twice).


3 – Barber’s current spot on the all-time indoor and outdoor combined collegiate list. Though he took down Davis’ indoor mark, he’s still behind Davis and comprehensive collegiate record-holder Johnson on the outdoor list. Johnson went 19-7½ (5.98m) in 1996 and Davis cleared 19-4¼ (5.90m) in 1998. Among those he passed on the overall comprehensive list? Bill Payne of Baylor, who is the father of collegiate women’s pole vault record holder Demi Payne.

Demi Payne Wins over Morris & Petrillose at New Mexico

What a perfect segue into the other pole vault headline of the day! You know it’s been a good day in the pole vault when a showdown between the only three collegiate women who have ever surpassed 15 feet that nearly resulted in a new collegiate record is the "other" headline.

One of those women is collegiate record-holder/mother Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin, a name – if you’ve been following our website lately – will know very well (if not, see here, here, here, here, here and here).

In their first three-way match-up of the season, Payne toppled former collegiate record-holder Sandi Morris of Arkansas and former-former-collegiate-record-holder and  NCAA champion Kaitlin Petrillose of Texas.

All three remained in the game until 4.46m, when Petrillose bowed out on three misses – leaving Payne and Morris (and pro Tori Pena), who both went over on their first attempts. Next up was 4.56m, which Payne again took on her first attempt, but where Morris recorded her first miss. She got up and over on her next time down the runway.

The bar was raised to 4.66m – one centimeter better than Morris’ PR and non-altitude collegiate-best  from a week ago. Even Payne had only cleared that height once on her 4.75m collegiate record in this same building in January.

No problem for Payne, who went over the bar on her very first attempt, ensuring her three attempts at a new collegiate record of 4.76m. Morris was not up to the task on this day despite strong attempts at 4.76m last week, and she took her leave on three straight fouls.

Though on her second attempt at 4.76m Payne very nearly scored her fourth collegiate record in the past four weekends, she was unsuccessful on her three tries down the runway to end her weekend.

Still, she scored wins in the highly anticipated showdowns with Morris and Petrillose, and also reclaimed sole possession of the No. 2 jump in collegiate history at 4.66m. All told, she now owns five of the top six jumps in collegiate history.

What was her daughter Charlee doing in the meantime?

What can we look forward to in the Year of the Vault next?

Payne’s Stephen F. Austin squad is next in action at the Southland Conference Championships on Feb. 16-17, before going to the NCAA Championships March 13-14 on Morris’ turf at Arkansas. Perhaps an appearance at the USATF Indoor Championships in the interim (Feb. 28 – March 1) is in the offing?

Morris’ Razorbacks are split between their home Tyson Invitational and Husky Classic at Washington on Feb. 13 and 14, before SECs on Feb. 27 and 28. Then it’s a de factor home meet for the NCAA Championships in Arkansas.

Barber could be in action as many as three times more before NCAAs with the Tyson Invitational, home Zips Invitational and the MAC Championships scheduled over the next three weekends.