Track / Mal Florence : Vaulters Dial, Olson Keep on Reaching--and Pushing, as Well

Joe Dial, the American outdoor record-holder in the pole vault at 19 feet, 2 inches, is relatively short for a pole vaulter. He stands only 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs 130 pounds.

But little Joe, the NCAA champion from Oklahoma State, says he stood tall against Billy Olson, who was reportedly skeptical about Dial’s marks and challenged him late in May.

Mike Tully and Olson showed up at a meet at SMU May 25 to check Dial out and compete against him.

Dial didn’t vault against Olson or Tully, but he said he squared off against Olson after having been provoked by the American indoor record-holder.


Dial gave his version of the incident Tuesday at a luncheon for track writers.

“Tully congratulated me and said good luck and everything. Coming from him it was a big compliment because when I was coming up I looked up to those guys,” Dial said. “Then, Olson came up to me and told me to get my stuff on and jump. I told him I wasn’t jumping.

“He said my marks were bogus and he wanted to see me jumping. I said, ‘I don’t have to prove anything to you, Billy, or Tully or anybody here. I’ve done it (broken the U.S. record) two weeks in a row, what more do you want?’ “He said I was scared to jump against him. He was talking so loud that everybody could hear him. One of my teammates said he couldn’t believe that Olson was talking to me like that.

“It was really getting to me. So I told Billy that he better shut up or I’d come over and hit him with a stick I had picked up. He said, ‘Come on, then.’ So I put the stick down and went over and gave him a shove on the chest and knocked him off the runway. I was ready to get it on right there.


“I thought I’d instill a little respect in him. He didn’t show me any. So he said, ‘What is the deal? What’s going on?’ I never implied that I was going to jump at that meet. My teammates were competing, and I went there to watch.”

Dial will be vaulting, though, Saturday in the ARCO-Coliseum meet. He will oppose Tully, the Olympic silver medalist, and Earl Bell, the bronze medalist.

Olson isn’t in the meet. Too bad. Nothing spices an event like a feud. Remember the Mary Decker Slaney-Ruth Wysocki confrontation in the Sunkist Invitational last January after the the women distance runners had engaged in a verbal battle?

The pole vault is a hot event now. Tully cleared 19- and came close at 19-2 3/4 under miserable weather conditions last Saturday night in Eugene, Ore. Dial, benefiting from helpful tail winds, has vaulted 19-1 1/2 and 19-2 3/4 in recent weeks.


Sergei Bubka of the Soviet Union is the world record-holder at 19-5 3/4, but Dial predicts that the record will go even higher.

“I think the record will keep going up,” he said. “I see myself jumping 20 feet because all I have to do is hold the pole at 16-7 and push off my best and that’s 20 feet. For other guys to jump 20 feet, they’ll have to hold over 17 feet.

“What helps me is that my pushoff is better than those guys’. They have to hold six inches higher than I do. Mike is holding at 16-5 and I held at 15-11 on my record height.”

Tully has said that the higher a vaulter holds on the pole, the higher he’ll vault. Bubka is responsible for the breakthrough. But it takes time to perfect such a technique. Dial has a long-range plan.


“My plan is to raise my grip to 16-3 or 16-4, and that should get me to 19-8 or so.” he said. “I’d rather hold higher, but I have to work on it in practice. My dad and I are working on a few things, but we’re keeping them to ourselves.”

John Brenner, former UCLA shotputter and the collegiate record-holder at 71 feet, 11 inches, hasn’t been able to approach his world-class form this season because of a hip injury.

But Brenner said he is in good physical condition now and is ready for a throw in the 70-foot range.

He’ll compete in Saturday’s meet against some of the world’s best shotputters, a field that includes Brian Oldfield, Dave Laut, Augie Wolf, Greg Trafalis and John Campbell, the NCAA champion from Louisiana Tech.


Brenner said his weight fluctuates between 290 and 303 pounds. He’s a lightweight compared to Campbell.

“I’d say that he weighs in the neighborhood of 320 and 340 pounds,” Brenner said. “His weight fluctuates from meal to meal.”

Track Notes

Greg Foster, the Olympic silver medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, won’t compete in Saturday’s meet. He has yet to make his outdoor debut, and his coach, Bob Kersee, says that Foster isn’t technically sharp. . . . UCLA’s Jackie Joyner didn’t qualify for the finals in the long jump in the recent NCAA meet in Austin, Tex. The long jump is the heptathlete’s favorite event, and she is the collegiate record-holder at 22-11. She said Monday that she was upset but quickly masked her disappointment because her teammates were depending on her. The versatile Joyner went on to run legs in the 400- and 1,600-meter relays, and finished second in the triple jump and 400-meter hurdles and third in the 100-meter hurdles. She did her part in a big way, but the UCLA women still finished in a tie for fourth. Joyner will compete in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump in Saturday’s Coliseum meet. She said she is capable of long jumping 23-5 or farther. Jodi Anderson is the U.S. record-holder at 22-11 3/4. Romania’s Anisoara Cusmir is the world record-holder at 24-4 1/2. . . . The USC and UCLA men’s team faltered at Austin, each scoring only three points, tying for 58th place.