Thursday, September 7, 2017

V 7 N. 62 He works hard for the money - Larry Jessee

Larry Jessee

Larry Jessee, a Miamisburg, Ohio native has led an interesting and varied  path in the pole vaulting world that would fill several books and might have made a great reality show.  Once in awhile a new story about Larry pops up from a source.  Phil Scott who knew Larry quite well, comes up with something every now and then.  Third hand knowledge tells me that Larry set up a runway on his driveway and a pit in the back yard of his residence in Miamisburg to train, coach, and encourage young vaulters back in the 1970s.  Even made some world record attempts in the yard.  Phil claims one evening of coaching added two feet to his PR when he was a young and aspiring decathlete.

This story about  Larry is documented in the El Paso, TX newpaper where Larry now makes his home.  It goes back to when Larry won a $50,000 bet (with Lloyd's of London) that he could set a Masters WR in the pole vault.  I guess betting is an accurate way of describing a relationship with an  insurance company.  In this case Larry and his backers put up almost $4,000 to 'bet' that he could break the record.  Turns out he had done the same thing earlier in the year and won $30,000.

Here is Larry's bio from the UTEP Hall of Fame page.

Men's Track & Field (1974-75)
A three-time All-American who was a member of three NCAA championship teams, Larry Jessee was a standout performer with the men's track & field team from 1974-75. The 1974 NCAA indoor pole vault champion still owns the UTEP school record for the event at 18'. He became the eighth man in history to clear that height. Jessee had a decorated career following his time with the Miners, going on to compete with the United States National Team eight times. He was the 1977 and '78 USA Indoor Champion and became the American record holder in 1982 when he cleared 18-8. In his master's career, he held six world records from 1992-96. Jessee became the first and only man older than 40 to vault 18'. Jessee also served as an assistant coach with the Miners, directing four WAC Champions and three All-Americans. He has been inducted into the El Paso, UTEP Track & Field and Ohio Track & Field Halls of Fame.

  Here's the Masters WR  story via the El Paso Times  October 16, 1994

Considering that this year's world championships in London paid  $60,000 for a win and $100,000 for a WR, Larry was doing very well 23 years ago.  Putting those dollars into today's dollars, he may even have exceeded today's payout.  According to historic inflation tables,  $50,000 in 1994 would now be  $82,586 today.

This story makes me fantasize that if we are looking for ways to build spectator interest in the sport, a new approach might be that a meet be held where athletes compete against Lloyds of London putting up money that they can make a certain height, distance or time.    In the old days the Aussies had 'professional' athletes running for money, handicapping races, and taking bets in the stands.  Sports like pro football draw tremendous followings not only because people like the game, but also because many of them are playing fantasy leagues and betting heavily on point spreads, or in office pools.  Larry has shown that he could make a decent living out of the sport way back in 1994. Frankly, I would never get into a card game with Larry.

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