Vaulting through the generations

Osage man pole vaults into his mid-seventies

Wayne Shaul, 75, recently competed at the Reno Summit and cleared 6 feet 10 inches which ranked him eighth in the world for his age group. Courtesy Photo

Seventy-five-year-old Wayne Shaul picked up pole vaulting in 1936 after his father and now Shaul pole vaults alongside his grandson.

Shaul’s father pole vaulted in Oklahoma before moving to California but little did he know generations of pole vaulters would follow in his footsteps.

“When me and my two brothers came along he asked if we wanted to pole vault and we went to a local area and cut some bamboo for our poles and that’s how we started,” Shaul said.

Shaul and his brothers carried on pole vaulting through high school where Shaul set the 1965 record of clearing 12 feet six inches. Soon, life carried on and Shaul joined the navy, got married, and had kids but when Shaul got divorced he utilized pole vaulting to work through the heartache. In the end, Shaul thanked pole vaulting for initializing a new start.

“I was single and needed something to do, and my daughters were in high school track and I asked the principal if I could be a pole vaulting coach and he said yes. So, at 45 I worked as the coach, got fit, and eventually met a beautiful woman named Joyce and we got married. So, lightning does strike twice,” he said.  

Eventually, life caught up with Shaul again and he didn’t pole vault for 30 years until his grandson, Martin O’Neal showed interest in pole vaulting. At the age of 75, Shaul started coaching for his grandson’s high school and found his love for the sport reignited.

Shaul began coaching and vaulting for a club called Ultimate Pole Vault and at the Reno Summit on Jan.11 and 12, Shaul pole vaulted competitively for the first time since his high school years. Shaul cleared 6 feet 10 inches which ranked him as eighth in the world for his age group.

“The Summit was my first opening height and I was hoping to do more,” he said. “My goal is eight feet in the open meets this year.”

Wayne Shaul, 75-year-old pole vaulter with his daughter Amy O’Neal and his grandson Martin O’Neal. Courtesy Photo

Shaul said he looks forward to the open meets where any age groups can vault and USA Track and Field can officially record any new height records made by the vaulters.

O’Neal shows promise in his pole vaulting future as well. Shaul shared that O’Neal is a sophomore and his current personal best height is 11 feet nine inches and strongly believes O’Neal will make it to a higher bracket this year.

“I drive him home after every practice, we’re good friends,” Shaul said. Shaul is thankful pole vaulting stuck with him throughout the twists and turns of life and is thankful to share it with the generations after him including his two daughters, three step-children, and seven grandkids.


  • Natasha Lovato

    Natasha is a Colorado native born with a passion for the natural world. When she’s not hiking, paddle boarding or cycling you’ll find her curled up with a good book and her cats.