JAMESTOWN, Kan. — Storybook pole-vaulter Maggie Steele celebrated her first anniversary in the company of a former world-record holder, Olympians, and Olympic hopefuls at Doctoberfest 2013 on Saturday, Oct. 5th.
The eighth annual event at the Tailwind Pole Vault Club featured many high-flying professional, collegiate, and high school athletes who rocketed toward the rafters in this converted basketball gym, which now is considered a kind of Field of Dreams for pole-vaulting here in the northernmost part of the central Kansas prairie.
Among nearly 60 athletes who charged down the rubberized runway Saturday, the biggest thrills were provided by the youngest vaulters, future greats such as Kendall Reynolds and Zoe Bechard, a pair of 10-year-olds from nearby Concordia, Kan., who reminded everyone in attendance that having lots of fun is what vaulting at Tailwind is all about.
The annual Doctoberfest event coincided with the first anniversary of the publishing of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, the young adult novel by Grant Overstake in which a gutsy Kansas farm girl, Maggie Steele, overcomes tragedy and soars to new heights as a pole-vaulter.
Maggie has been endorsed by Olympic athletes, coaches, and the Kansas State High School Activities Association for its positive message for young people. Kirkus Reviews calls it, “A fine young adult novel about perseverance in sports and in life.”
Vaulters who soared to new personal records or gave inspiring performances on Saturday, such as Reynolds and Bechard, were awarded copies of the book.
“Watching those kids having such a blast and soaring to new heights was an inspiration for Maggie and me,” Overstake said. “It was an awesome day for youngsters, elites and masters vaulters as well. Everyone there knew we were watching something special.”
The inspiration for writing Maggie Vaults Over the Moon came to the author as he watched the same Doctoberfest event two years ago. The story is dedicated to the boys and girls of the Tailwind Pole Vault Club, who travel from all over Kansas and Nebraska to bring life and energy to Jamestown (Pop. 286).
“It was a perfect day to enjoy the great sport of pole-vaulting and to celebrate the remarkable impact that Maggie has had in such a short time,” Overstake said. “It was great to be back at Tailwind and to be able to say thank-you to so many of the people who helped make Maggie Vaults Over the Moon into a reality.”
Putting on a street vault is an enormous task. So, too, is the behind-the-scenes work required to run a pole vault club with hundreds of participants. To honor the volunteers who’ve made a special contribution to the Tailwind Pole Vault Club this past year, Doc Breault presented “Das Boot Awards” to Luke Hood and Bernie James.
Three-time Olympian and former world record holder, Earl Bell was in attendance on Saturday. Bell has coached dozens of history’s greatest vaulters, including three members of the 2012 US Olympic team. One of those vaulters, Jeremy “El Grande” Scott, a 2012 Olympian, also was in attendance with his parents, Henry and Rosella, from Norfolk, Nebraska. Jeremy is one of several Olympians who’ve wholeheartedly endorsed Maggie Vaults Over the Moon.
Elite vaulters who train at the Bell Athletics facility in Jonesboro, Ark., competed at Doctoberfest, including Brian Mondschein, Jason Vogt, and the day’s top male vaulter, Sam Bell (16-8, short approach). The event’s top female vaulter was Olympic hopeful Kayla Caldwell (13-0, short approach) who also trains at Bell Athletics.
“What some people may not know is that in addition to coaching real-life champions, Earl Bell is the coaching voice who helps fictional Maggie Steele vault over the moon,” Overstake said. “Saturday was a great day to thank him for the hours he devoted to the story, and to look back at the great impact it has had in one year’s time. Fact is, Maggie wouldn’t have been the same without Earl’s expertise and support.”
Also instrumental to the novel’s success is Tailwind founder and coach Dr. Mark (Doc) Breault, for whom the Doctoberfest Street Vault is named. Breault has coached more than 160 vaulters to the Kansas State High School Track and Field Championship meet in the past decade, helping them to learn the sport safely and participate with a great attitude.
Many other Maggie supporters were in attendance at Doctoberfest, including Coach Denis Frazier of Bishop Carroll High School, and vaulters, such as Mackenzie VanPelt of Beloit, Kansas; Nick Meyer (University of Kansas); Taylor Marie Swanson (Cloud County Community College), Katie Stoovy Howard, and Tabor College senior Kristen Harris.
Maggie also made some new friends on Saturday. Among them were members of Fuzion Athletics, Inc. Traveling the farthest to attend the event in their cool Fuzion car were Jamie Steffen and Andrea Sabbitine, from Louisville, Ky.
Master’s vaulter Jim Moller, drove down from Eagan, Minn. Steffen created Fuzion Athletics in 2008 to help the vault community in Minnesota. Since then the club has grown from 10 kids to over 300 vaulters a week at its Minnesota branch. Its new indoor gym in Louisville will soon grow into a pole vault dynasty in Kentucky. Moller, 51, had perhaps the greatest performance of the Doctoberfest meet, soaring to a personal age group PR of 13-1!
The Most Inspirational Maggie Award for the meet was presented to Sam Dreiling, 16, of Gorham, Kansas. Sam and his mom, Gin, attended the event without their father and husband, Mark, who almost never misses a chance to video his son’s pole-vaulting but currently is recovering from a serious automobile accident.
“The story I wrote about a fictional pole-vaulter with make-believe problems can’t compare to the real-life difficulties like the Dreiling’s are going through and others have gone through,” Overstake said. “At the same time, I know that Maggie has inspired many people over the past year, letting them know that whatever they might be going through, they can make it as well.”
Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is available in paperback or eBook and can be purchased through Amazon.com in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, and Italy. Maggie also is available at Australia’s premier online bookseller, Angus & Robertson, and at hundreds of local independent US booksellers near you.