Clovis News

10-year-old steals vaulter show in Clovis

Nick Hysong has been here. And Tim Mack. And Stacy Dragila -- USA Olympic gold medalists them all.

Crowds ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 arrive annually for the most intimate pole vaulting competition in the land.

For 15 years, they've stuffed the intersection of Pollasky Avenue and Fourth Street in Old Town Clovis, clapped rhythmically, high-fived participants, howled and had a heck of a time at what is commonly referred to as the Clovis Street Vault. Then came the 16th edition Friday night, and it got better.

It came at 7:35 p.m., in 90-degree heat and a setting sun casting long shadows over the throng as the little guy from Louisiana -- 10-year-old Mondo Duplantis -- gripped his pole, gritted his teeth, sprinted down the narrow, elevated runway and sailed toward a crossbar hanging nearly three times his height on his third and final attempt.

The 4-foot-6, 80-pounder clipped the bar on his way down. The bar bounced. The kid landed in the pit, watched above and waited anxiously.

The bar settled, stuck, and it was official -- 12 feet, 8 inches and another age-group world record, breaking his own of 12-71/4. And, understand, his standard is good for 11- and 12-year-olds as well.

For all the emotional crowd response in the history of the event, perhaps never has there been one like this. And Mondo answered by literally running into their arms, then throwing them T-shirts and then beads -- fitting on a night the state of Louisiana dominated with high school vaulters from a Mardi Gras Track Club coached by former Fresno State All-American Doug Fraley.

"It was pretty great, amazing," Mondo said while signing autographs afterward.

He had closed the evening by missing three attempts at 13-11/4, but it didn't matter -- the show had been stolen by a fifth-grader.

And such attention agrees with him, said his father/coach Greg Duplantis, a former national high school record-holder and 19-foot pro.

"He's funny," dad said, "he likes crowds and people looking at him."

This came a day after his son arrived for a meet news conference at the Doghouse Grill in suit, tie and fedora.

"That's his call, all him, it has nothing to do with me," dad said. "We usually go out to dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and he always wears a suit. That's him, man."

The high school competition, matching two-male, two-female teams from Clovis, Hanford, Los Angeles, San Diego, Reno and New Orleans, was interrupted so Mondo could vault consecutively, without competition.

Hardly taking a breather between attempts, he blew over 10-0, 10-6, 11-0, 11-6 and 12-2 before missing twice at 12-8.

He would take 11 attempts in all, spread over 20 minutes, leaving him gasping for air.

"It was OK," he said. "The adrenaline was rushing."

Other highlights:

– Winning the Elite Division was Mark Hollis, the recent USA National Track and Field champion. He cleared 18-6 and narrowly missed his second attempt at a Clovis Street Vault-record 19-1. Two-time Olympian Kory Tarpening has the record at 18-101/2.

The Elite Division's top female mark was a 14-2 by UCLA's Katy Viuf, an ex-Bruins cheerleader who picked up the sport only three years ago.

– Team New Orleans, as expected, won the high school division with a total of 58 feet. What wasn't expected was a 9-inch personal improvement from Dalton Duvio (16-4).

His brother, Dylan Duvio, filled in for Team Hanford as a late replacement and cleared a nation freshman class-leading 15-0 while wearing a red, white and blue Uncle Sam top hat.

He wore it in honor of a late friend, Josh Bertrand, who shared the hat with him at an Independence Day Meet vault July 3 in Louisiana.

Two weeks later, Bertrand was killed when his truck was hit by a train.

Then, at his funeral, his parents insisted Dylan Duvio keep the hat: "If I can, I'll wear it at every single meet. I don't know why bad things happen to good people."