Enjoy these excerpts from “The Sky’s the Limit”
Practice Makes Perfect – Four Practices in Three Towns in One Day
Joe and his father were not hesitant about traveling to different practice locations depending upon the wind direction and weather conditions.
“If the wind is out of the east, we would go down to Duncan,” Dean Dial explained. “If it’s out of the west, we’ll go to Chickasha because they have an east-west runway.
“When you get the wind to your back, it’s a big help. Joe likes a little tailwind.”
Joe relates the time he was breaking in a new pole but was having trouble finding a practice location with favorable wind conditions.
The pole manufacturer delivered the new pole as promised. Father and son anxiously went to the track at Marlow High School to check out the new pole, but on each attempt, the pole kept throwing Joe back on the runway. So they decided to go to Duncan (about 11 miles away) but again, the pole kept throwing Joe off the runway. He couldn’t even get to the landing pit. They then returned back to Marlow to try to practice once again, but they noticed the wind had switched direction and was coming out of the west which was unusual for that part of the state.
Joe and his dad knew that Chickasha had a pole vault pit that was set up for the runway to go from west to east so the two of them hopped back in their car and drove down to Chickasha. Once they arrived, Joe was finally able to get on the pole. And this time, the wind was at Joe’s back- just like he preferred.
It was indeed a full day. Four practices in three towns in one day. No doubt that had to be another record!
But the extra effort eventually paid off. When Joe was finally able to vault at Chickasha, the bar was raised to 15 feet, which Joe cleared. It was the first time ever he had made 15 feet.
“I ended up going to the next meet and jumping 14-9 which broke the national age group record for 15 year olds. That was my first age-group record,” Joe said.
Joe would later go on to set similar national age group records for 16, 17 and 18 year olds.
The Case of the Missing Pit
Phyllis Cole, wife of Coach Darvis Cole, recalled an incident involving Joe and the new pole vault pit at Marlow High School.
“Marlow was under a tornado warning, and Darvis and I were down in our storm cellar waiting for the storm to blow over. When the winds finally calmed down and we were ready to come out, all of a sudden we heard this pounding on our cellar door. It was Joe and some of the other track boys. They were all in a panic and Joe was almost in tears,” Mrs. Cole said.
In a breathless, excited state, Joe tried to explain why he and his track teammates were so upset.
“Coach, coach, the pole vault pit has blown away! The tornado took our pit! The pit is gone!” screamed Joe.
The strong winds that hit Marlow that evening had blown away the pole vault pit as the track boys had discovered. Not knowing what else to do, the group rushed over to their coach’s house to inform him.
Luckily, after searching the town’s streets, the pit was located about a half-mile away from the track.
Joe remembers one section of the pit was found at one of his classmates’ parent’s house.
“One section of the pit went right through their roof and landed in their bedroom,” Joe recalled.
“It was torn up some, but we could still use it. But Joe was so panicky. He knew how hard it was to get that new pit, and he didn’t want to have to go through that again,” Coach Cole added.
Plenty of Shoes
Several major sport shoe companies were in their infancy stage and were actively promoting their products by giving away shoes and equipment to athletes who had a chance to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Trials. The companies realized that having an athlete wear their brand of shoe or equipment at the Trials, which would be televised in addition to receiving plenty of print coverage, would result in an enormous amount of free advertising.
After breaking the national high school pole vault record at the recent Kansas Relays, Joe’s name quickly became known to the shoe companies and equipment manufacturers.
“Someone told me that all I had to do was to call the company up and they would send me free shoes and equipment,” Joe recalled.
“I called Nike, Adidas, Puma, Brooks, ASICS, Pony and another company called, I think, Kangaroo. I just told them that I had just broken the high school pole vault record and was wondering if I could get some of your shoes to try,” Joe said.
The shoe companies, always in search of the free advertising and national promotion, were more than eager to fulfill Joe’s request.
However, their reaction far surpassed Joe’s expectations.
“The boxes soon starting coming! Every company I contacted would send me boxes of stuff – two or three pairs of spikes, two or three pairs of flats, tee-shirts, warm-ups and hats. Just about anything they had. It was crazy! The stuff would just flood in!
“Everybody on my (Marlow High School) team was just about my size. So I started giving the equipment away to my teammates,” Joe revealed.
Joe’s teammates appreciated the opportunity for new – and even more importantly – free gear.
“It’s amazing when someone had free stuff how it always fit better,” quipped teammate Steve Patterson.
But Joe was sure to give all the companies who provided the free gear the exposure that each company desired.
“I would rotate what shoes I wore at the meets since I told them I would wear them. The ones I like the best I would wear at the Olympic Trials,” Joe explained.