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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

HHSAA wants to look at pole vault safety

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i High School Athletic Association wants to form a committee to look at pole vaulting safety issues to determine if changes should be made to the sport, including its possible elimination.

The association expects to propose the committee at its annual athletic directors meeting June 9-11 on Kaua'i.

"The whole range of options will be explored," HHSAA president Keith Amemiya said, "from maintaining the status quo to eliminating pole vaulting as a high school sport. That's an extreme measure."

The association considered dropping the sport immediately, but reconsidered after officials discussed the issue with several coaches and athletic directors, Amemiya said.

"It was felt that such a drastic measure should be discussed first in detail," he said.

Amemiya said the committee would consist of representatives of the association and Hawai'i's five high school leagues.

Dropping the sport would mean fewer participation opportunities for high school students, something the HHSAA will take into consideration when it makes it decision.

Pole vaulting safety became a high priority among high school and college programs nationwide after three athletes died on the Mainland in three months. (There's no record of any catastrophic injuries sustained from pole vaulting in Hawai'i.)

"It's obvious that pole vaulting is a potentially dangerous activity," Amemiya said. "In light of safety and liability concerns, we need to do what's best for our student athletes."

Amemiya said several states have already banned the sport at the high school level, citing safety and cost issues.

The committee might also look at changing the specifications for the landing pad, and some schools have looked at using helmets as a way to reduce the chances of head injuries.