On Wednesday evening, some of the best athletes in the world will be gathered near Falls Park in downtown Greenville, demonstrating the skills that have made many of them champions.
The first-ever Liberty Bridge Jump Off, a gathering of eight female pole vaulters and eight male long jumpers, will kick off at 5:30 p.m. on Main Street in front of Falls Park. Admission is free.
The Jump Off, presented by the American Track League (ATL) in conjunction with the Greenville Track Club and Fleet Feet Sports on Augusta Street, will be followed by a street party featuring a DJ, food trucks, and beer vendors. The event will also feature lessons in the fundamentals of pole vaulting for young children and a fun run at 4:30 p.m. sponsored by Fleet Feet.
Perhaps the most exciting of the many names on the list of participating athletes is champion pole vaulter Sandi Morris, a Greenville native who, in addition to holding the American outdoor pole vaulting record, won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics last August.
“It’s really awesome to get an opportunity to bring track and field home,” Morris said at a Tuesday evening press conference at Fleet Feet. “I have so many fans here in Greenville who scour the internet for the live feed of when I’m jumping overseas in Europe, so it’s going to be really cool to show my Greenville fans what professional pole vaulting and long jumping are like in person. It gives me a chance to give back to the community that made me who I am and inspire the next generation of vaulters.”
The Liberty Bridge Jump Off is part of the American Track League’s mission, which is to bring more awareness to American track-and-field sports by making each meet a true event.
“I had this vision of what a track league could be, and we’ve infused entertainment into track and field,” ATL president Paul Doyle said. “Live music, food trucks, beer, a live DJ. … Our goal is make every event a lifelong memory, and that’s what we hope to achieve with the Jump Off.”
Morris, who hasn’t done any competitive pole vaulting in Greenville in over a decade, is excited that the Jump Off will allow the public to get closer than they typically do during a standard track-and-field event.
“There’s going to be lots of adrenaline and positivity,” she said. “At meets like this, you’ve got your coach right there. You can high five the fans. And you can feed on that positivity of the crowd having a good time. It rubs off on the athletes for sure.”
The two other athletes at Tuesday’s press conference had their own reasons for looking forward to the event.
2014 USA Indoor Vaulting champion Mary Saxer is encouraged by the rising profile of her sport. “It’s so awesome to see more and more women rise to the occasion over the years,” said Saxer, who has been competing for eight years. “We really have quite a group of women jumping well, and I’m so proud to be among them.”
For long jumper Jarvis Scott, the results of the Jump Off are even more important, as this is Scott’s last chance to make it to the World Games, a crucial step toward the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“It would mean a lot, especially since I missed the Olympic trials,” said Scott, who has only been competing for two years. “It would be a great accomplishment so early in my career.”