Manitoba pole vaulters jumping at opportunity to grow community with prairie festival

Manitobans will be pole-vaulting near Birds Hill this weekend. Getty Images

Manitoba is known for its wide range of summer festivals, but an event happening near Birds Hill this weekend might be one of the most unusual yet.

The Prairie Pole Vault Festival is attracting athletes from across the prairies and beyond to a local coach’s 10-acre property – but it’s not a competition.

Local organizers told 680 CJOB’s Sports Show that it’s more of a casual way for the sport’s tiny community – and people who want to learn – to hang out and share all things vault-related.

“People are just going to show up, and it’s totally cool,” said Winnipeg vaulter Ryan MacDonald of the casual event.

“We just want people out there. I encourage anybody to come out and just see what it’s about. If you’re somewhat interested… come out. Have a good time with us.”

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MacDonald said he got into pole vaulting three years ago after previously competing in triple-jump, and now he’s hooked on the sport.

“I used to be a triple-jumper, and I had stress fractures,” he said. “I found that hurt a lot, so I was kind of recruited to come over and try pole vault.

“I loved it. There’s no way I’d go back to triple-jump.”

MacDonald and fellow vaulter Emily Blackner – who currently competes for the University of Manitoba Bisons – both admitted that pole vault is a bit of an unusual sport, but they’re hoping people will see its appeal if they experience it first-hand.

“It’s so unnatural, so unlike anything else,” said MacDonald. “You’re running with a stick, then you stick it in the ground really hard… and then you have to jump over something? It’s tough.”

“It’s definitely pretty small compared to other events,” said Blackner.

“I guess we could consider ourselves a little family. In Canada it’s still pretty small.”

Blackner said the weekend includes open vaults for both men and women, as well as non-pole vault activities, like rock climbing, swimming, volleyball and more.

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More information about the Prairie Pole Vault Festival is available on the Athletics Manitoba website.

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