An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn't putting her pole down anytime soon. Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she'll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she's the shoo-in.
The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85. "But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I've been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape," she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont. But she literally won't have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland.
She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men's pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group. Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault, one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat. "You really have to work at that," she said.
"You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it's challenging." Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days. "I was screaming, I was so happy," she said.