Joe Dial was one of the top pole vaulters in high school history during his days at Marlow (Oklahoma) High School in the early 1980s. As a senior in 1981, Dial broke the state and national record with a vault of 17-9 1/2, which stood as the national high school record for 18 years. Although the performance was outside of high school competition, Dial became the first high school athlete to clear 18 feet in the pole vault, and eventually cleared 18-1 1/4 before concluding his high school career. In addition to his record-setting performance, Dial claimed the state title in the long jump with a 23-5 1/2 effort.
Prior to his record-setting outdoor season as a senior, Dial broke the national record indoors at 17-4 1/2 after eclipsing the mark several times as a junior. In his junior season outdoors, Dial recorded a national best of 17-5 1/4 at the famed Kansas Relays and was the youngest athlete invited to the 1980 Olympic Trials.
While Dial excelled nationally in the pole vault during his junior and senior years, he dominated the event throughout his four years at Marlow High School as he won the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association state title four consecutive years.
Dial was the recipient of numerous honors during his high school days. He was selected to the Track & Field News High School All-American team in 1980 and 1981, and was Track & Field News High School Athlete of the Year in 1981. He was also named Athlete of the Meet (including high school, college and open divisions) at the 1980 Kansas Relays, was inducted into the Golden South Track Meet Hall of Fame and was the Hertz #1 Award Winner in 1979 and 1980.
Dial’s success continued at the next level, where he was a four-time NCAA pole vault champion while competing at Oklahoma State University and was the first collegiate pole vaulter to clear 19 feet. He broke the Big Eight Conference record in 1985 with a vault of 19-1 1/2 and later was inducted into the Oklahoma State University Hall of Fame.
Dial held the American pole vault record for nine years (1985-94), breaking his own record nine times during that span, and was the world record-holder in the event in 1986. His highest vault was 19-6 1/2. He won the bronze medal at the 1989 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, and, in 2011, he was inducted into the Pole Vault Hall of Fame.
After concluding his career as a participant, Dial joined the athletic department staff at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1993. He became head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams in 1994 and is entering his 25th season as the Golden Eagles’ coach. He has had 70 NCAA championship qualifiers, along with five who advanced to Olympic Trials competition.
Dial was born October 26, 1962, in Marlow, Oklahoma, and currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and his wife, Shawna, who serves as an assistant coach, have three sons, Tim, Tommy and Tyler.
Doug Eaton – The Author
A native of Kansas, experienced his love of track and field at an early age, running track in high school and college. He graduated from Pittsburg State University with a degree in Business Administration – Accounting. While working for several energy companies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he earned the designation of Certified Public Accountant, graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law and became a member of the Oklahoma Bar.
Combining his hobbies of sports and writing, Eaton covered local sports for several area newspapers and magazines. A member of the Track & Field Writers of America, Eaton enjoys attending as many track meets as possible.
Eaton lives in Tulsa with his wife, Jan and they have two grown children, Kurt (wife Jackie) and Kristi.