Lights go out on pole vaulters

Perhaps the biggest story from Saturday’s All-State Track and Field meet was from the only event that never finished.

Greenfield High School’s Vlad Popusoi was still jumping along with four other pole vaulters at 9:30 p.m. at Bridgewater State University when the lights went out, and the official supervising the event walked off the field, leaving the competitors and coaches standing in the dark. When the lights came back on 15 minutes later, no one was left to run the event, which was cancelled.

“As a responsible adult who stayed with my athlete until the very end, that’s what I expect the officials to do,” Greenfield coach Stu Elliott said. “I upheld my responsibility, and they should have to uphold theirs.”

Initially, there were no plans to finish out the meet, and as of Sunday morning, the results were posted as official on the MIAA website. But calls from West Director Tom Stewart, as well as Westborough High School coach Roger Anderson (who had two athletes still competing), prompted the MIAA to re-evaluate the situation. When Anderson offered his centrally-located school to host the conclusion of the event Wednesday at 4, the MIAA agreed, and Popusoi will join the other four athletes in concluding the meet.

Although Elliott said he was pleased with the decision to finish the meet, there was still some points of contention regarding how things were handled.

At the point of the meet when the lights went out, there were five competitors remaining in the pole vault, including Popusoi, who entered the day as the defending champion and the top seed. The five had each cleared 13 feet, 3 inches, and each had taken an attempt at 13-9. Westborough’s Jack Chuma, the No. 2 seed, cleared 13-9 on his first attempt, while the other competitors had each missed once and were preparing for their final two jumps (each competitor gets three attempts per height) when the lights failed and darkness prevailed.

According to Elliott, it was then that the official in charge of the pole vault event walked off the field saying, “I’m done with this, the meet is over.” Elliott said he was never made aware of any decision regarding the event being called at that point, although according to Stewart, he was told that meet director Michael Meagher got together with the pole vault official and made the decision to stop the meet, because each remaining individual had attempted 13-9 once. Chuma was declared the winner, with the other athletes left to wonder what-if.

“What they did was they left a bunch of high school athletes standing on the field in the state championship,” Elliott said. “They just left them. They never came back and explained it to us.

“I’ve gone through a whole set of reactions, including anger, dismay and disappointment, but now I feel that it’s just embarrassing.”

Elliott said that he felt they should have waited for the lights to come back on and resumed the meet. Instead, he and Popusoi packed up and made the long trek home.

That was the end to a grueling day for Elliott and Popusoi, who arrived at 1 p.m. and sat through the girls’ event. There was a 90-minute break between the girls’ event conclusion and the start of the boys’ event, due in part to the required warmup . Then the boys began jumping at 10 feet, so by the time Popusoi came in, it was 8:30, the rest of the All-State meet had concluded, and team trophies were awarded. And while this issue has not happened in the past, the pole vault is known to run late, and Stewart said that at the track directors’ meeting on Friday, he will propose that the pole vault start at 10 a.m. (the rest of the meet begins at 2:30 p.m.) to ensure it finishes in a more timely fashion.

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