Gill Athletics attracts vaulting enthusiasts to Champaign

Last weekend, Gill Athletics, located at 601 Mercury Drive in Champaign, hosted and sponsored a two-day event for pole vault enthusiasts to gather and watch both amateur and professional pole vaulters, as well as learn more about how track and field equipment is made.

The event brought in people of all ages and experience, including younger vaulters still in high school and older people who are no longer competing.

“I enjoy seeing the guys and the girls jump and seeing the differences in the techniques from back when,” said Jerry Harvey, of Monticello, Ill., who used to pole vault for Eastern Illinois University. “They’re more athletic and gymnastic, and they’re much stronger and faster.”

Day one of the event featured the vault symposium, which included a tour of the factory of the one of the few producers of vaulting equipment in the world.

About 80 people took part and went on to a lecture series to be educated about the sport of pole vaulting.

The lectures varied from a beginner group for people who were new to the sport, to an advanced group for the more serious pole vaulting enthusiasts.

The second day featured a larger crowd who were ready to see vaulters in competition.

Two vaulting runways were set up to for the competitors in both the open and elite events. Over 125 amateur vaulters from all over the Midwest came to showcase their talents for the crowd.

At noon on Saturday, professional vaulters, including Olympians Derek Miles and Erica Bartolina, competed against some of the country’s other top vaulters like All-Americans Jeremy Scott and Mark Hollis.

Although 2010 is just the fifth year that Gill Athletics has hosted the event, it has actually gone on for the past 30 years.

It was originally held at the Indiana State Fair, but because of the amount of space required by the runways, the event could no longer be held in Indianapolis.

Bryan Carrel, who is also the Illini men’s vault coach, works at Gill Athletics and was instrumental in moving the event to Champaign.

Since it has arrived in Champaign, the event has gotten more vaulters each year and reached more than 125 vaulters in its fifth installment, Carrel said.

The Factory Vault has also seen growing interest the Champaign-Urbana community as well, as more people are starting to notice the official supplier to USA Track and Field in their town.

“I’ve been here for 10 years, and it still amazes me that people don’t realize Gill Athletics is in this town,” Carrel said.

“People watch these games and see these implements, and it’s made in their backyard.”

As for the future of the event, Carrel and Gill Athletics believe it will continue to expand.

“All we talk about every year is, ‘Are we going to be bigger this year and what can we do next year?’” Carrel said.