Former Champ Returns To Pole Vaulting Action

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At 31, Bo Althoff has returned to the sport that once drew him nationwide attention.

His decision to take up pole vaulting after being out of the sport for about 11 years was a result of his part-time coaching stint with the Longhorn track and field team last spring.

"I'd watch the kids vault and I kind of missed doing it," he said. "Then I went to an open meet and I saw some older guys vaulting about 15 feet. I told myself, ‘heck I could do that'."

What made Althoff's decision even more nostalgic is his return to the coach, Dan Reid, who started him in the sport two decades ago and coached him throughout his high school career.

"Yes, it's like old home week with us two," Reid said.

Under Reid's guidance, Althoff practices each weekday afternoon then travels to Flagstaff or Paradise Valley Community College for additional tune-ups.

In a USA Track meet last week at Tempe High School, Althoff easily cleared 15 feet, 6 inches. His goal on the USA open circuit is to vault what he did in high school and college -- 16 feet, 6 inches.

Reid predicts he might even be able to surpass that.

"He's a lot different now, more mature, and he knows his body better," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he went higher."

The decision to resume pole vaulting came with a few sacrifices. Althoff immediately went on a nutritious diet to shed about 20 pounds from his already well-chiseled frame. He's now back to the about 190 pounds he weighed in high school. Althoff also is participating in a weight-training regime to strengthen his upper body.

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When Bo Althoff (right) decided to return to pole vaulting after 11 years away from the sport, he asked his high school coach, Dan Reid, to help him.

"The difference in Bo now and from when he was in high school is his ‘guns,'" Reid said pointing to Althoff's bulging biceps. "Now he really has some guns."

For Althoff, however, the difference in vaulting at 31 rather than as a teen is the injury bug.

"In high school, I could recover right away and keep on vaulting," he said. "Now those (injuries) take time to heal."

Even though the maladies sometimes slow him, he said the thrill of vaulting is as exciting as it was when Althoff was a nationally ranked prep vaulter.

"Actually, I enjoy it a little bit more now than I did then," he said. "I don't think I ever realized what I was doing back then."

Lookin' back

Turn back the calender to spring of 1992 and Althoff can be seen magically soaring over the bar with all the grace of his God-given talents.

That year at the Round Valley Rotary Invitational, Althoff became the first Class 3A athlete to ever vault 15 feet.

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In the spring of 1992, Bo Althoff soared over the bar at 15 feet, 5 inches. At the time, Althoff was a senior at Payson High School.

Fans remember Althoff's ill-fated attempt at 15 feet, 3 inches after he had already won the event. On the attempt, his vault was off-center which sent the PHS senior sprawling -- from more than 15 feet in the air --onto the Round Valley High School track adjacent to the vaulting pit. He sprang to his feet shrugging off the fall.

By the middle of April, after Althoff had cleared 15 feet, 6 inches at a college all-comers meet at Phoenix Central High School, the Payson sports star was attracting the attention of college recruiters.

Since junior high, Althoff had said his goal was to earn a college track and field scholarship.

In June at the Great Southwest Track and Field Invitational at Arizona State University, the PHS homecoming king's vault of 16 feet, 5.75 inches stamped him as one of the top five pole vaulters in the nation.

Only weeks later at the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, Calif., Althoff suffered a setback when his pole snapped during a practice attempt. The broken end of the pole severely cut and bruised Althoff's forearm. Seeing the accident and wanting to protect the Payson star from further injury, Reid yanked Althoff from the competition.

Althoff continued to practice on a limited basis refusing to let the injury slow his preparations for the Keebler Invitational the following week in Chicago, Ill. There, he cleared 15 feet 6 inches competing against the top 11 vaulters in the nation.

Later that summer, Althoff received the college scholarship he always dreamed of and was off to Arizona State University.

He transferred to Northern Arizona University where he earned a bachelor's degree.

While in Flagstaff, he made the decision to give up vaulting and focus on playing collegiate football.

Those plans went awry when NCAA eligibility rules prohibited him from playing for the Lumberjacks.

Today, he's employed by Arizona Public Service in Payson and when not practicing pole vaulting, spends his free time coaching football and track at his alma mater.

Althoff was certain when he hung up his pole and track shoes in 1994, he'd probably never vault again.

"But I guess when you really loved doing something like I did, you can never really give it up," he said. "So, here I am doing what I did in high school."

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