This Day In Sports: From Pocatello to prestigious podiums

February 2, 2001: Equaling her own outdoor world record in the women’s pole vault, Pocatello’s Stacy Dragila sets a new indoor record by clearing 15 feet, 2¼ inches at the Millrose Games in New York. Women’s pole vault had become an Olympic-sanctioned event the year before, and Dragila had won the first-ever gold medal at the Summer Games in Sydney. She was at the peak of her career and was easily the sport’s most popular performer.

Dragila competed in track and field for Idaho State in the early 1990s and graduated from ISU in 1995. Women’s pole vault wasn’t a thing yet, and she competed in the heptathlon. But Bengals coach Dave Nielsen, a former pole vaulter himself, encouraged Dragila to give it a try, and by 1996 she was winning the U.S. Olympic Trials (when it was a demonstration sport). Her first official major title came at the 1997 World Championships in Paris.

The world record inched up often in the early days of women’s pole vault, and Dragila was right in the middle of it—in 2001 especially. Nine days after the Millrose Games, Russia’s Svetlana Feofanova bested Dragila’s mark by a quarter-inch. Then Dragila recaptured it eight days after that with a vault of 15 feet, 3¼ inches back in Pocatello’s Holt Arena. She eclipsed the standard again that April—again in Holt. And in one glorious day in June at an international meet at Stanford, Dragila added more than four inches to the world record, topping out at 15 feet, 9¼ inches. That would be her all-time personal best.

That mark stood for two years until Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva bested it in 2003. Isinbayeva has held the current women’s pole vault world record for 14½ years now at 16 feet, 7 inches. Dragila was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2014. Although she lives in Boise these days, she still hosts the Stacy Dragila Open, an annual college and high school meet at Idaho State. This year’s edition was held last weekend.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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