Maggie Vaults Over the Moon

Three-time Olympian Earl Bell is ‘Coaching Voice’ in “Maggie Vaults Over the Moon.”

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While visiting an Asian rainforest, former world-record holder and Olympic great Earl Bell tries a real bamboo vaulting pole, just like Maggie Steele’s. Photo by Mark Breault, Tailwind Pole Vaulting Club

The “coaching voice” in Maggie Vaults Over the Moon comes from the legendary Earl Bell, one of the greatest pole-vaulters and pole vault coaches in the world. Earl is a former world record–holding pole-vaulter, who won the bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics. He is the current coach to a number of the nation’s top men and women vaulters. At his last Olympic appearance, the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Earl finished fourth. He set the world pole-vaulting record of 5.67 meters (18‘ 7 1/4”) on May 29, 1976, at the USA Track & Field (USATF) National Track and Field Championships at Cessna Stadium in Wichita, Kansas. The author, working as a volunteer helper at the event, caught Earl’s pole on that great moment in vaulting history. Earl went on to set an American record of 19’ 0 1/4” in San Jose, California, in 1984, and was later inducted into the USATF Track and Field Hall of Fame. Interviews for this story were conducted at the Bell Athletics training facility in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where Earl hosts numerous camps for aspiring young vaulters like Maggie Steele. He also coaches a number of the nation’s top pole-vaulters, including three members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Becky Holliday, Jeremy Scott and Derek Miles. Earl will be happy to coach you at one of his camps or sell you just the right fiberglass vaulting pole to help you jump over the moon. Visit

Earl Bell (USATF Hall of Fame)

Inducted: 2002, athlete

Born: August 25, 1955 – Ancon, PA

Pole Vault – 5.87 m

One of the most accomplished U.S. men’s pole vaulters in history, Earl Bell tied Thierry Vigneron of France for the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games with a clearance of 18′ 4 1/2″. Bell qualified for two additional U.S. Olympic teams, placing sixth in 1976 and fourth in 1988. The gold medalist at the 1975 Pan American Games, Bell also won the silver medal at the 1987 World Indoor Championships and the bronze medal at the 1986 Goodwill Games. Bell won three U.S. Outdoor (1976, 1984, 1990) and three U.S. Indoor (1980, 1984, 1987) titles during his career. At Arkansas State University, he won three NCAA Outdoor titles (1975, 1976, 1977) and two NCAA Indoor titles (1975, 1976). Bell set the world outdoor record of 18′ 7 1/4″ on May 29, 1976 in Wichita, Kans., and set an American record of 19′ 0 1/4″ in San Jose, Calif. on June 9, 1984. He now is renowned as one of the top pole vault coaches in the country.

Records Held
World Record: Pole Vault – 5.67 m (May 29, 1976 – )
American Record: Pole Vault – 5.80 m (June 9, 1984 – )

1976 Olympics: Pole Vault (6th)
1984 Olympics: Pole Vault – 5.60 m (3rd)
1988 Olympics: Pole Vault (4th)
1986 Goodwill Games: Pole Vault (3rd)
1987 World Indoors: Pole Vault (2nd)
1976 US Outdoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1980 US Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1984 US Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1984 US Outdoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1987 US Indoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1990 US Outdoors: Pole Vault (1st)
1975 Pan Am Games: Pole Vault (1st)
1975 NCAA Indoor: Pole Vault (1st)
1975 NCAA Outdoor: Pole Vault (1st)
1976 NCAA Indoor: Pole Vault (1st)
1976 NCAA Outdoor: Pole Vault (1st)
1977 NCAA Outdoor: Pole Vault (1st)

undergraduate: Arkansas State (Jonesboro, Arkansas), 1988


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