Women's Pole Vault Pioneer, Stacy Dragila Retires

Red ShannonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2009

In 1994, as a junior in college, pole vaulter Stacy Dragila casually cleared a height of 10 feet. She was stunned to learn her clearance was a new American record.

In 2004, at the peak of her incredible career, Dragila set an indoor record of 15 feet, 9 2/5 inches at the World Indoor Championships.

It was possibly one of the most short-lived world records in history, as Stacy's young Russian rival, Yelena Isinbayeva, elevated the record by two inches only moments later.

The torch was passed...and Isinbayeva has been lighting the path ever since.

In that 10-year span, Dragila and her sport rose together from their awkward, insignificant beginnings to heights of world prominence and respect.

It was once thought that women lacked the upper body strength required to successfully compete in the pole vault.

Because of pioneers in the sport such as Stacy Dragila, "chicks with sticks" is now one of the most-watched and anticipated events in all of track and field.

And its not just the skimpy uniforms and fashion-model looks.

These ladies demonstrate the cutting edge of technique, strength and execution.

It was on Stacy Dragila's watch that women's vaulting transitioned from a circus sideshow act to a legitimate world-class event. At the turn of the last century, the IOC could no longer deny the sport's widespread appeal and was forced to include it in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

There, Dragila rightfully stepped in to claim the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in women's vault. She went on to win two World Championships in 2001 and 2003. She set numerous world records in her long and successful tenure.

In recent years, age (she's now 38) and injury slowed the feisty competitor. This week, after 14 years in the sport, and overseeing the success of her torch-bearing protege, Dragila graciously ended her career.

Thank you Stacy, for giving us another reason to be a fan of track and field!