Jumping for Joy: Awakening the Athlete Within

In

Ray Glier

Kay Glynn eats broccoli every day, but that is not the most earnest thing she does. Kay pole vaults in sub-freezing temperatures, and there have been days of 0 degrees in the Missouri farm country where she lives. 

She is a 68-year old grandmother and has her own indoor training facility, a she-shed she calls it. The 100-foot metal building does not have heat, so this winter if it is 0 outside, it is likely 0 inside, but it blunts the wind coming off the Ozarks and keeps the snow off her runway and landing pad. 

There is a story behind this training facility for the woman who once held masters world records indoors and outdoors for the pole vault. 

Kay has been married to Mike 47 years and they raised their family in Iowa. When family matters had them live apart for a year—Mike in Missouri, Kay in Iowa—Kay would make the 4½-hour drive to see Mike. 

“He said to me one day, ‘If you had a (pole vault) pit down here would you stay longer?’ 

“I might,” Kay said with a laugh. 

“And, lo and behold that Christmas I got a she-shed and it is the ultimate she-shed. I love being there. It is a 100-foot long shed and I learned how to hammer the boards together for the pit and use the drill and do everything inside there.” 

That’s right, fellas. A way to a woman’s heart does not have to be with diamonds or taking out the trash. It can be with a she-shed. 

And your belle doesn’t necessarily have to pole vault. She can do the long jump, high jump, triple jump, acrobatics, or gymnastics, which are all the things Kay Glynn does inside her she-shed of joy. 

Kay’s she-shed, not to mention her fitness, resilience, toughness, flexibility, and incorruptible eating habits (the broccoli), helped her to a haul of medals in the USA Masters Track & Field national meet in Ames, IA last summer. She had first place finishes in the pole vault, long jump, triple jump, and pentathlon. 

Kay followed that up with a first in the decathlon at the USATF Combined Events meet in Ft. Collins in August 2021. 

The delightful part of the Geezer Jock newsletter is listening to people tell their stories on their journey to masters fulfillment and, you betcha, Kay has stories. Here’s another. 

Glynn was doing cartwheels and acrobatics as a young child because she had a mentor Mom, Mary Bruce, who was a cheerleader. Kay processed that flexibility and joy into track and field. She was a superstar in high school in Iowa. Her state high school long jump record survived for 30 years, which is remarkable given the evolution of training and footwear. 

Glynn is an amalgam of physical and mental gifts, which is why that she-shed doesn’t need to be covered by a metal roof. It needs to be covered by a circus tent. Her business partners are Barnum & Bailey. 

It is a venue of stunts and horse play and spirit where she practices and displays audacious skill. Glynn has appeared on national television (David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Oprah, among other stops) and she has one especially impressive trick. Watch this video of her on the Letterman show. 

As a 15-year old she stunned the crowd at one of those fun county fairs in Iowa doing this bending-over-backwards stunt to win first prize, which was a yellow Mustang. She wasn’t even old enough to drive it home. 

Kay has done Christmas cards for the last 15 years, which included a picture of her folded like a shirt into a pose. She made one card with her hanging upside down over her pole vault pit, which was decorated in the red and green of Christmas. 

You cannot be bored in the presence of this woman, who flew on a trapeze at 55. 

Here is more of her story. She hung up the track shoes at 18 and was married at 20. Track was in the rear view mirror of that Mustang….for 30 years. 

But she stayed connected to sport through her children who she would take to Iowa track meets where they could carry on the family tradition of running and jumping.  

One day, Kay’s daughter tipped over Kay’s box of track memories, in a way only kids can succeed with. 

 “My daughter pointed out on the track and said, ‘See, Mom. There are old people out there. You can do that’.” Glynn looked at her daughter and said, “I don’t think so.” 

But when she took a closer look, a visceral emotion emerged. Kay saw the “old people” having a blast among themselves, as if they were in high school again. 

“They were chattering and having so much fun,” said Glynn, who was 47 at the time. “I said, ‘I’m doing this next year’.” 

What is endearing about Glynn is that she is not feeling inadequate at track meets as a certifiable Geezer Jock. She was a high school phenom and I have written before in Geezer Jock that many older athletes cannot look their former athletic selves in the mirror. The explosiveness they had as teenagers is gone, they fear what they might find in its place, so they don’t rejoin the competition. 

Glynn rushed right by that question when I asked her if she has to jack herself up after a look back at 1970-1971 when she was an iconic Iowa high school athlete. Nope. She will not self-sabotage. “I never looked back at anything I did in high school,” she said. “It was a clean slate, a new chapter. 

“When I went to my first (masters) meet and did the pole vault for the first time and the shot put and the high jump and hurdles in the heptathlon, I was just so excited to be involved. There was no looking back.” 

Glynn’s comeback to sports would not be derailed by arthritis in her hips, either. One representative at a prominent clinic counseled her to “find a new hobby” because of the condition of her hips. 

That was unwise advice to a woman who has her own indoor track & field facility. 

Glynn’s track friends helped her find a South Carolina doctor who expertly resurfaced her hips, one in 2013, and the other in 2016. Check out the Christmas card and video and picture. She lost none of her flexibility with the two procedures and the spigot is wide open pouring out even more fun. 

Glynn does have limits with the pole vaulting in the winter in that she-shed. There was a stretch of four days at 15-below and that was too much and the she-shed had to be an ice box, not an athletic venue. That doesn’t happen often. 

Kay is ambitious and that she-shed will have to be remodeled before she puts away the track shoes for good. 

“I saw the woman who was 105 (Julia Hawkins) and still competing in masters events, so I want to go that long,” said she with the she-shed. 

That’s 37 years from now. Kay’s mom is 98 and spry. Call Vegas. Get some money down on Kay. 

Ray Glier has written for various media for over 40 years, as a contributor to national publications including The New York Times, Vice Sports, USA TODAY, The Miami Herald, The Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Washington Post. The author of five books, Glier has a passion for master sports and seniors athletes, and shares their stories of triumph and joy in his unique, inspiring, and always moving weekly newsletter, Geezer Jock. For more great masters sports content, subscribe to Ray’s FREE weekly email at geezerjocknewsletter.com.

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