Litchfield sets up home base

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles chronicling pole vaulter Paul Litchfield’s efforts to make the U.S. Olympic team for the London Games this summer.

LAKE OF THE PINES — Sure, Paul Litchfield would love to be whisked around the country on a private jet and practice in a state of the art facility, with top notch equipment and skilled trainers at his beckon call.
This spring, his 1994 Subaru Impreza with 270,000 miles and a homemade pole vault runway and pit in his parents’ backyard will do just fine.
Litchfield was smiling ear to ear on Friday as he took the maiden voyage on his new pole vault setup on his parents’ property just outside of Lake of the Pines. He bought the concrete and rubber for the runway. The rest of the equipment was donated or borrowed. It’s far from fancy, but it suits Litchfield’s adventurous personality perfectly.
“This is a dream come true,” Litchfield said in between jumps as hard-charging music blared from his Subaru. “I’ve got everything I need here.”
Litchfield said his new pole vault venue should get plenty of use over the next month. He will host several fellow pole vaulters in April, including Dutch standout Robbert Jan Jansen, who is seeking a spot on the Netherlands’ Olympic squad.
Jansen, Litchfield and two or three other vaulters plan to make the Litchfield house their home base as they travel to a series of competitions throughout the state in April. There are two competitions at Sacramento State, the Mt. Sac Relays on April 21 and a meet at Stanford April 29.
Litchfield is hoping to set up a USA Track and Field-sanctioned exhibition, possibly at Del Oro High later in the month.
“Their facilities are amazing,” Litchfield said.
The Bear River High graduate hasn’t competed since late last month in Pocatello, Idaho, when he cleared 5.5 meters (18 feet, 4 inches) to make the ‘B’ qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Litchfield will be striving for the ‘A’ standard of 5.7m this spring, which would give him an automatic berth to the trials.
“I’m going to clear 19 feet this year,” said Litchfield, whose career-best of 18-5 came in 2006. “I’ve figured a lot of things out lately. I’m not as good of an athlete as I used to be so I have to be smarter.”
Litchfield said welcoming in other top athletes is part of the culture in track and field. Not only is he generously providing a place to stay (not to mention the transportation in his Subaru), he is also providing himself with some extra motivation every time he competes.
“You play to the level of the competition, so I’m trying to create a better environment for me and my friends,” Litchfield said.