The Manecke pole vaulters, left to right, Shayne, Ava and Dakota

“Set the bar so high that people will laugh at your goals, and then clear the bar.”

Renaud Lavillenie, 

French Olympian 

2012 Gold Medalist

This quote can be applied to nearly anyone’s everyday life but at the Manecke household it holds a deeper, more specific, meaning.

Dakota, an incoming sophomore at Cut Bank High School, has already proven herself to be the best pole-vaulter in CBHS history. She broke the school record this past spring as a freshman but she is anything but satisfied. 

Her father Shayne took up pole vaulting two years ago, deciding to try it out while helping his daughters train. He has also proven to be no slouch in the pit as he has won his age division in back-to-back years at the Big Sky State Games but still has goals of reaching new heights. 

Dakota was the first of the Maneckes to test out the sport of pole vaulting as a sixth grader at CBMS. She had a friend in the event and becoming a pole vaulter meant “I didn’t have to run in circles,” she said. Dakota’s first personal record was 3’6” but she added three feet to that by the end of the year, clearing 6’6”. 

With the short track season in Cut Bank, especially in middle school and when Mother Nature gets involved, Dakota began to train on her own and find off-season competitions. 

“I used to pole vault in the front yard with a wooden stick,” she said. “My dad finally gave in and got me a pit and some pole. My mom found a used pit on Craigslist for $500 and he drove out to Minnesota to get it.”

That pit has turned out to be an investment well worth it to the Manecke family. Shayne began pole vaulting after picking up the pit almost two years ago. Ava, who will be in fifth grade, has also taken up the sport following in her big sister’s footsteps. 

“I started coaching her three days before the Big Sky State Games,” said Dakota. “She took first and cleared 4’6” in her first meet. She went on the next week to clear 5’6” at the Last Chance Pole Vault Festival.”

In addition to high school meets and the Big Sky State Games, Dakota also competes at the Regional and State Junior Olympic Competitions. 

“I placed sixth at the State Meet in Bozeman and third at the Regional Meet in Boise this summer,” she said. “I qualified for Nationals in 2016 and 2017 but haven’t made it because flying poles out of Montana is nearly impossible.”

Dakota placed second at the Big Sky State games, clearing 9’. The busy summer for the Lady Wolves’ star and her family continued at the Tacoma Freedom Fair Beach Vault over the fourth of July and the Last Chance Pole Vault Festival in Helena. 

“Beach and Street Vaults are typically not for placings,” she said. “You’re just competing against yourself, trying to beat your own PR (personal record) and have fun.”

“They’re more for a fun exhibition for the crowd,” added Shayne. 

The family also went to the National Pole Vault Summit, which is held in Reno every January. Over 3,000 participants attend the annual event where Dakota was able to meet U.S. outdoor record holder and Olympic silver Medalist Sandi Morris, 2016 gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi and Olympian Lexi Weeks. 

With all of the extra fun travel and competitions comes grueling hours of training. 

Shayne tries to train 3-5 days a week at home and has also attended two summer camps the last two years he’s been competing. His training, along with jumping, includes weight training and cardio. 

Dakota tries to practice every day at home with lots of ground drills, short run drills and other running drills to improve her approach. 

“I only take maybe 10 full runs a week,” she said. 

Dakota also attended three camps this summer, in Helena, Lambert and Billings along with traveling to Helena once a week to work with a pole vault coach. 

Shayne currently has the upper hand on his daughter with a competition PR of 10’2”. Dakota isn’t far behind with a PR of 9’6”, which gave her the CBHS record. 

“It was my goal to break the record as a freshman,” she said. “It was bittersweet because it was amazing but I know I could have done better with more training.”

Shayne has set out to reach a goal height of 11’6” by the end of the year while Dakota has the same height in her sights for next track and field season. By her senior year she wants to clear a whopping 16’4”. Currently the State Class B girls pole vault record  is 11’3” and the All Class record is 13’2”.

This is where the quote from Renaud Lavillenie enters the story for Dakota and the event she loves.

“Set the bar so high that people will laugh at your goals, and then clear the bar.”

While Dakota and her father don’t directly compete with each other at meets, they both acknowledge some friendly competition between the two of them. 

“Yes, we get competitive,” said Dakota. “I finally reached his PR at Divisionals and then he went and broke it again. I don’t quite have the strength yet to break my PR, but I will. I spent a lot of this summer practicing on heights way under my PR because I was working on the skills I need for next season, so I have the form I need to clear heights.”

“There’s a little competition there,” said Shayne. “But the main competition is with the bar. I’m sure she’ll soon pass me on her way to her goals. But I love being able to do this event with her. It gives me a better understanding of what the sport entails and hopefully gives me a chance to help her meet her goals.”

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