ANDALE, Kan. — For three days this past week, this vault-crazy town in the wheat fields of South Central Kansas became… PR City!
Vaulter after vaulter soared to Personal Records at the 11th Annual Gold Medal Pole Vault Camp, held June 27-29 at Andale High School.
The Andale City Council should have issued a Proclamation to change the name of their spiffy little town for a few days. But before they could muster a quorum, 32 enthusiastic young vaulters took to the runways and changed it themselves.
As a reward for their highest and best efforts, vaulters who set PRs in the camp’s final competition received copies of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, the inspirational novel by Grant Overstake, which tells the story of the Sunflower State’s high-flying fictional pole vaulter, Maggie Steele.
“The Gold Medal Camp was held in an absolutely perfect setting for Kansas pole vaulting, right next to a newly harvested wheat field,” said Overstake, who shot photos and presented the “Maggie Awards” at the camp’s closing ceremony.
“The older vaulters had a gusty Kansas tailwind at their backs as usual. But I was waaay more impressed with the younger vaulters on the other runway, vaulting into a gusty headwind. It took everything they had just to make it down the runway, but you could see it on their faces. Just like Maggie, they were totally determined to give it their very best.”
The young adult novel has been endorsed by US Olympic vaulters Becky Holliday, Jeremy Scott, Erica Bartolina, and many others who are cheering for the book’s inspiring message. That list includes Gold Medal Pole Vault Camp Director, Mark Schmidt and his wife, Becky. He’s one of the most outstanding high school pole-vault coaches in the entire nation. In the past 18 years, Coach Mark Schmidt has had top three finishers at the Kansas State Meet. For 17 of those years, at least one of his boys or girls finished with a gold or silver medal.
“It was such a great honor to meet Coach Mark and Becky,” Overstake added. “Not only are they huge Maggie fans, they’ve had the joy of seeing their own sons soaring to gold medals at the Kansas State Track and Field Championships. One of their sons, Dylan, won twice!”
Said Mrs. Schmidt, “Maggie Vaults Over the Moon was right on the money from all the experiences we have also had. The book was genuine, heartbreaking and soothing, and I was thrilled the way it was written. It gave “voice” to a gift that helped Maggie survive and carry on. As a pole vault mom, I have been lucky to see the joy in my sons’ eyes as they reach that next height and do well.
Mrs. Schmidt added, “The kids in Andale and the ones that attend our camp help us to keep going and continue to give us that same joy. They come to practice five days a week and they work hard. Mark is great with them and I know they think he is pretty great also!”
Dylan went on to star as a two-time All-Conference vaulter at Wichita State University, soaring over 17-0. Today, he is widely considered to be one of the finest young football and track coaches in the state, helping Andale athlete’s shine.
“Andale seems like a young athlete’s paradise,” Overstake said. “As a matter of fact, you really could call Andale Track Town, Kansas. The boys won the State 4-A Track Championship this past season and the girls team was third. All of the sports teams are strong here because sports are still a big deal to the young people. The positive atmosphere is contagious, and the Schmidt family is a big reason why.”
Dylan was running off the older division competition on Saturday, cheering every vault. Coaches Travis Ford from Goddard Eisenhower, and Zach Curtis of Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel, instructed the younger flight, with equal enthusiasm and zeal for the sport.
“If you take a look at the photos you can see how much fun these youngsters were having vaulting with these coaches,” Overstake said. “I know for a fact that Maggie loved being there! It’s wonderful to imagine how her story will inspire this group of youngsters to soar over the moon.”
Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is endorsed by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA). From now through August, the author has pledged to make a donation to the Kansas High School Activities Association Sports Hall of Fame for each copy of Maggie sold at the Watermark store, located at Douglas and Oliver in Wichita, or via the Watermark website by clicking the photo below.