Clarification on Demi Payne’s Collegiate Pole Vault Record

Clarification on Demi Payne’s Collegiate Pole Vault Record

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) communications staff will recognize the women's pole vault mark of 15-3½ (4.66m) posted by Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin at the Drake Relays on Friday, April 24, as the new outdoor collegiate record. 

At issue in this case are two factors: 1) that Demi Payne competed in the pole vault twice in the same meet [on Wednesday, April 22, in the Street Vault and Friday in the invitational section]; and 2) that she achieved her mark on a pole vault pit that without a “box collar” that is prescribed by NCAA rule for NCAA Championships qualifying purposes.

In regards to the first point, there does exist a criterion that deems marks unacceptable for NCAA Championships qualifying purposes if they are achieved by competing in the same event in the same meet more than once. The criterion is as follows (from the “2015 NCAA Track and Field Championships Qualifying Criteria” document):

“Marks will not be acceptable if they are set in meets or events as follows: …Where contestants are given a second opportunity to compete in the same event(s) within the same meet, unless it is in accordance with the normal established advancement procedure”

Viewed in the context of that qualifying criterion, Demi Payne's mark from April 24 may not hold up as an NCAA Championships qualifying mark. However, qualification to the NCAA Championships is not the issue in question. Inclusion of marks on the all-time collegiate outdoor list maintained by the USTFCCCA does not take into account criteria dictating NCAA Championships qualifying procedures. Therefore, the fact this was her second competition of the weekend (separated by 48 hours) at the same meet does not factor into the mark's inclusion on the USTFCCCA all-time collegiate list.

The USTFCCCA views the issue from this perspective: Demi Payne's mark on April 24 was achieved in the framework of a legitimate competition while wearing the Stephen F. Austin uniform, as was the mark of 15-1½ (4.61m) she achieved in the Street Vault on April 22. Therefore, both marks will be included on the all-time USTFCCCA lists.

The second issue in this case is the absence of the “box collar” that is mandated for NCAA Championships qualifying purposes in a rules change that took effect December 1, 2013. While the mark may not hold up as an NCAA Championships qualifying mark due to that rule, the USTFCCCA communications staff does not take the rule into consideration as it maintains its all-time collegiate lists.

The purpose of those lists are to compare marks achieved across different points in collegiate history and, prior to December 1, 2013, collegiate pole vaulters were not subject to the “box collar” rule. Therefore, we believe that comparing Demi Payne's mark – regardless of box collar status – is a legitimate exercise.

Likewise, the 14-9½ (4.51m) mark achieved by Sandi Morris of Arkansas will stand as equal to the 10th-highest clearance in collegiate outdoor history.

Precedent for this decision comes from February of 2014. Emily Grove of South Dakota achieved a mark of 14-9½ (4.51m) at the USATF Indoor Championships – an event also contested without a box collar – and was subsequently included in the USTFCCCA all-time collegiate indoor lists.

It should also be noted that of the four highest vaults in comprehensive collegiate history (indoors and outdoors), three were achieved with box collars in place.

Secondarily, another issue that arose in this instance was the distinction between a “collegiate record” and an “NCAA record”. 

As defined by the USTFCCCA, collegiate all-time lists take into account all competition during the collegiate regular season up to and including the NCAA Championships. Such lists are maintained independently by the USTFCCCA, Track & Field News and many others. 

Some organizations include marks achieved beyond the NCAA Championships (ex. USATF Championships, Diamond League, IAAF World Championships, etc.) as part of their all-time collegiate lists. The USTFCCCA keeps a supplementary list of these marks but does not include them on the all-time lists.

The NCAA only maintains records of the marks achieved at its championship meets (the NCAA indoor and Outdoor championships). These are commonly referred to as “NCAA Championships Records” or “NCAA Meet Records”.