JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What is that? They are doing that inside? Pole valuting in a mall?
Many of the shoppers at the Avenues mall were asking those questions with bags in hand on Saturday. The Mall Vault, put on by the Jacksonville Athletic Club is the only indoor mall pole vault meet in the world and it is right here in Jacksonville.
"It is really incredible," said Eli Sunquist, director of the Jacksonville Athletic Club. "I really hope that the people watching see the event and maybe get interested in pole valuting. I hope they see that is not too dangerous and it is a lot of fun. We really want to bring exposure to the event of pole vaulting."
Safety was the concern of the previous marketing team at the Avenues mall, causing a two-year absence for the event. However, new management saw this as an opportunity and welcomed the event back inside the mall. As far as safety is concerned, Sunquist says that it is a top priority for all the competitors.
"That is a big issue. We make sure that people that are learing how to pole vault have qualified coaches and have plenty of different poles to choose from. It is really not a dangerous event, but it can be if you have poor coaching."
This year's event had so much anticipation that the Jacksonville Athletic Club had to cap the entrants at 80 vaulters as opposed to 100 in 2015 so everyone can get a chance to compete. They are several experience divisions and age groups ranging from 10 to 65 years old. Competition goes from 10 in the morning until 7 at night.