Pole Vaulting Legend Kay Glynn Raises The Bar On What 70-Year-Olds Can Achieve

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Defying age, expectations, and gravity

Kay Glynn is a 70-year-old grandmother with 8 grandchildren and a pole vaulting shed in her back yard. A former Iowa high school superstar, Kay held the state long jump record for 30 years. And more than 50 years later, she still holds the district and the western Iowa record.  She retired from competition after high school but decades later learned about masters track and field. 

“When I was 48, I was at the Iowa Games for my daughter’s track meet,” Glynn told Growing Bolder. “My daughter said, ‘Look, mom, there’s old people down there. You could do this!’ That’s when I started. When I was so sore the next day I decided, ‘I never want to be that sore again.'” 

Glynn took up pole vaulting and several other events at age 50 and began setting national and world records. She was nearly unbeatable for a decade until hip dysplasia led to severe arthritis and bone-on-bone contact so painful that she needed both hips resurfaced. Recovery was slow, difficult, and painful, but recover she did.

At age 68 she was inducted into the Masters Track & Field Hall of Fame and in 2023 she set a new age group world record in the pole vault and a new American record in the Pentathlon, 5 events in one day.   

“After having come back from surgeries, it can be done. It’s not as much fun,” Glynn told Growing Bolder’s Marc Middleton at the 2023 National Senior Games. “Doctors have told me that athletes make the best rehabbing people. They know what it’s like to have to work, and they know that there’s going to be light at the end of the tunnel. So, I just never give up. I just keep working at it.”

And the work never stops.  Glynn even pole vaults in her unheated “she-shed” in the dead of winter outside her Missouri home where temperatures can dip into the teens.  

“My husband of 50 years has his shed with all his tools in it, And I have my ‘she-shed’, with a pole vault pit inside. So, he goes to his shed and plays, and I go to my shed and play. So that helps. Even though in the wintertime when I go in there, my water bottle freezes,” Glynn said. 

“All along the way with my mishaps, all the doctors that I’ve been to for various body parts, no one has ever said, ‘You need to slow down.’ They’ve always told me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’ and they won’t let me stop.” 

Kay is not trying to defeat old age. She simply wants to feel as good as she can for as long as she can. 

“I started because it looked like it was fun. And I’m happy to say it’s still fun whether I win or lose that day, but I just can’t stop now because I know I won’t feel good if I don’t. It’s just so important for your health,” Glynn explained.

Kay Glynn Pole Vault Masters Sports
Photo Credit: Rob D’Avellar

In many meets, Kay clears one bar, and the competition is over; but no one leaves. All of her competitors stay to watch her vault until the very end. 

“We all are in the same boat,” Glynn continued. “We’re all ageless and sexless. We’re just all pole vaulters and we have our own little community, and we love to stick together, and we love to support each other.”

Kay Glynn may be the greatest, all-around over 70 female athlete who ever lived. That’s due in small part to her athletic ability and in large part to her ability to adapt, endure, and overcome.  

“I love the feeling of being healthy,” Glynn said. “That’s why even when I’m tired and I don’t want to do it that day, I still do something, because I know I’ll feel better afterwards. It’s all about the health and the people.”

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