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USATF Masters Athlete Spotlight: Gary Hunter


USATF is highlighting Masters competitors (athletes ages 30-100+) as they compete at the 2018 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Washington.  

Today’s Q&A focuses on 62-year-old Gary Hunter of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Hunter holds the listed world record in M50 pole vault, as well as the American record for age groups M55 and M60.


How did you get your start in USATF Masters competitions?

“I’d heard about it from a lot of people. I went to see a Masters meet when I was in L.A. for the ‘84 Olympic trials, and I thought it looked like fun. So, after I turned maybe 34-35, I started competing in a few here and there.”


I understand you were inspired to pole vault after watching Bob Seagren compete in the 1968 Olympics. What about him drew you to give pole vaulting a try?

“Well that year, 1968, he and John Pennel, our other vaulter, both jumped 17-8.75. Pennel actually didn’t medal because his pole passed under. Back then if it passed under the bar it was a miss. But, just incredible performances, everybody was right at the world record and I went home and taught myself how to pole vault out of a book.”


You and your friends used to make your own makeshift pole vault pits. What were the best materials you used to make these?

“Well, eventually foam, but I grew up on a farm, so we started out pole vaulting on plowed ground in our garden. Then we started throwing bales of hay out there, then we found straw was a lot better, and eventually we went to scrap foam. We jumped 16 (feet), 16 and a half in that.”


Did any injuries result from that?

“Not from landing ever, just from bad boxes. Back then, most boxes we used were illegal, they were 93’s, it’s very hard to get in the pit with a box that steep.”


You worked full time while competing. How did you manage your time between work and training?

“I actually jumped by best at 28, 34, and again at 40. I jumped 17-9. I over trained so much when I was younger and had injuries all the time. After college I had very few, you know, just the normal wear and tear, so I improved a lot by not having the time to train too much.”


If you could compete anywhere in the world, where would you want to travel to?

“I’ve never pole vaulted in El Paso but I’ve always heard it’s just a great place for tailwind so I’d love to compete there sometime.”


How do you like to celebrate a successful meet?

“I just like to get together with all the people in the meet and share stories and try to encourage each other in the future.”


Who do you look to the most for support and encouragement?

“My girlfriend, Karen.”


What does it mean to you to compete in USATF Masters events?

“I really enjoy the camaraderie and the people. That’s what I like the most.”


Learn more about becoming a Masters athlete at  


Alexia Beecher

USATF Marketing Intern

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