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Living a Dream: It Takes a Village

Inaugural Living a Dream 1958 Here at home the Reverend Bob Richards, two time Olympic Pole Vault Champion, just sailed over a cross bar dangling from a cloud.

2016 Looking back, that cloud could not have been higher than 4.72 meters (15 feet 5.8 inches) because that was Richards’ best vault ever. The medalists in the Women’s Pole Vault in Rio would have sent Rev Bob home empty handed. And forget about the Wheaties Box. Ekateríni Stefanie (Greece), and Holly Bradshaw (Great Britain) went Gold and Silver at 4.85, Stefanie winning on fewer misses. Eliza McCartney (New Zealand) took Bronze with 4.80.

As a sports fan I have always enjoyed the celebrations after the event almost as much as the event itself. Especially if I have skin in the game. I love the champaign baths and the victory dances. But I also love the interviews, impromptu on-the-spot or in-depth sit down conversations.

I’m always impressed with the sincerity of the athletes as they thank teachers, coaches, family, friends and often God for the support that made their victories possible. And I love their stories. Especially when they pay homage to their fellow athletes who, either by example or through competition brought the very best out of them.

Today Living a Dream celebrates these ‘fellow athletes’ by adding their stories to the mix. Be sure to Like because we have more.

“It takes a village. This is mine.”  Tori Pena

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(Left to right) Natasha Harvey ALTIS Jumps Coach, Dan Pfaff ALTIS Head Coach,  Tori Pena ALTIS Olympic Pole Vaulter, Chad Stoermer ALTIS Pole Vaulter, Greg Hull ALTIS Pole Vault Coach

Tori Getting emotional here so this will be long winded… Since 2010 I’ve had the pleasure and absolute honor of representing Ireland. This morning was my last time putting on my uniform and proudly giving it my all. I’ve competed at 3 World Championships, 5 European Championships and 2 Olympic Games. But so much more importantly, I’ve had the honor to compete with some amazing women. (Seriously, women’s pole vault is on fire and I’m happy to say I’ve competed with these athletes) I’ve made friends with ladies from around the world who have shown me strength, courage, bravery, and joy. This journey has been painstaking and heart wrenching. It’s been beautiful and profound. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought imaginable. Believe in yourself people, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.

I also can’t even begin to name all the people who have helped me along the way. From high school coaches and school teachers. To my amazing training partners, coaches, and therapists. Friends and athletes who have picked me up from the airport at strange hours and given me a place to sleep or a ride to the next meet with my poles. The list goes on full of odd and obscure favors from people in the pole vault community and far beyond. I’ve loved every minute of it! thank you, thank you, thank you

Melinda Owen Withrow


This was not how I envisioned it ending… 8 years I put into chasing a dream that I believed whole heartedly I could achieve. Until that moment I didn’t. Yesterday, as I looked around myself and realized there where 21 other girls with the same dream slip through their fingers. Who am I to think I deserved it more than anyone else? I didn’t work any harder. I know because I’ve seen most of them work. I know theirs stories, their dreams, how much their families believed in them.

So today, even knowing the ending, I will hold my head high and know that I left it ALL out there.  I would not go back and trade a single day, of the blood, sweat, or tears, because the joy that this sport has brought to me, the friendships I have made, and person I have become.  I had Family and friends go to great lengths to be by my side, wanting it just as bad as I did. As hard as it was to finish on such a disappointing note, I needed them there more at that moment then ever before. The sacrifice to pursue this dream was not mine, but everyone around me.

Thank you all for the support over these years, every text, message, kind word, financial support. It means more to me than I could ever express. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! And Ian, you better get ready, you’re about to have a full time wife 😉.

Coming up on Living a Dream Olympics wrap-up Profiles in Dedication: Crossroads Has the Trail Gone Cold on Constance Delaney?

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