Let’s face it, pole vaulters are an odd bunch.
You’ve got to be a little looney to want to hurl your entire body up over a bar that’s typically higher than a basketball backboard using little more than a flexible, fiberglass stick. I should know, not that I’ve ever tried. But as a former KU track and field athlete, I’ve gotten to know many of these colorful characters.
Who can forget the famous “Huffman Roll” that Scott Huffman, j’88, perfected as a Jayhawk at the Kansas Relays, taking him all the way to an American Record and the Atlanta Olympics. KU’s grand pole vault tradition includes other great names like Jeff Buckingham, ’84, and Pat Manson, e’91, not to mention champions like Amy Linnen, c’07, and (reigning NCAA Indoor National Champion) Natalia Bartnovskaya. But perhaps none of these characters have been more colorful than Jordan Scott.
Scott, d’11, who won seven Big 12 pole vault titles and the 2010 outdoor NCAA championship while competing for Kansas, has made headlines as a professional vaulter since winning the U.S. Indoor National Championship in February. And it’s not just his pole vaulting that’s turning heads. Scott dyes his hair different colors each time he competes. A full gallery with more than 70 different hairdos can be viewed on his website. Scott explains:
“Halfway through my 2010 track season with KU I started dying my hair a different design with different colors for each competition. It all started when I had a rough indoor season that year; I was really struggling at competitions while practices were going great. I had a long heart-to-heart talk with my coach after a horrible showing at the indoor NCAA Championships and we realized that I wasn’t having fun like I used to! I turned vaulting into more of a job than a sport that I loved all through high school and the first years of college. We decided to adjust my priorities for that outdoor season and move “having fun” to the top of the list.
“I decided at the last minute to dye my hair. Everyone was more than shocked when this guy shows up to the meet with red and white-checkered hair, ha. I jumped the highest I’ve ever vaulted on that day and felt like I had to keep it up and dye it again! Almost every meet since that day I’ve dyed my hair. And it’s funny how much it helped my popularity in the sport! I started to build a real fan base and meet people who definitely would remember “the guy with the hair.”
“That was a turning point in my career and I love being able to get the crowd into it, whether it comes from my vaulting or my hair.”
We don’t care whether it’s his high-flying acrobatics, his world-class performances, or his dynamic do, it’s easy to love this colorful character. In fact, Scott is engaged to wed his KU sweetheart, Julia Cummings, d’12, who also competed in the pole vault for the Jayhawks, this fall. Follow Jordan Scott’s hair-raising antics online (jscottpolevault.com, twitter, facebook and instagram) or catch him in action at the 86th Kansas Relays on Friday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium (complete schedule here).
(Images courtesy of Jordan Scott, jscottpolevault.com)
— David Johnston