Scott Huffman Born: November 30, 1964 (Quinter, KS)
Graduated: Quinter High School, 1983; University of Kansas, 1988
If you do the math, it just barely adds up. A five foot, nine inch Scott Huffman carrying a fifteen foot long pole ran down the runway in Knoxville, Tennessee, on the afternoon of May 25, 1996, toward the pit. Looming over the pit stood the bar at nineteen feet, seven inches, and a new American pole vault record. In order to clear the bar, it would take a monumental effort from one of Kansas’ all-time greats in the event.
But, Huffman had a secret weapon in his patented roll, the same technique that would become known as the “Huffman Roll” in honor of the Quinter native, and on that day, Huffman set the American record in the pole vault by launching himself down the runway, planting his pole in the pit, exploding into the air, rolling over the bar and celebrating on the nineteen foot, seven inch, drop to the mat.
Pole vaulting was in Huffman’s blood from birth. Following in the footsteps of his dad, Huffman was pegged as a vaulter from an early age, including receiving a three-foot vault pole from a pastor in Quinter when he was born. Yet Huffman didn’t actually start focusing on the sport until his junior year of high school. The following year as a senior, Huffman won the 1A state championship in the pole vault by clearing fourteen feet, five inches.
Following high school, Huffman chose to continue vaulting at the University of Kansas under pole vault coach Rick Attig. In his first season under Attig’s leadership, Huffman saw his personal record rise nearly two full feet in the event.
In 1986, Huffman claimed his first Big 8 Conference title in the pole vault winning the outdoor meet with a vault of over eighteen feet. He also won the Big 8 Conference title in the 1988 indoor pole vault. Huffman was named an NCAA Indoor All-American in both 1986 and 1988.
In total, Huffman claimed three KU Relays titles and four Drake Relays championships, two of the country’s most prestigious meets, in the pole vault.
After graduating from the University of Kansas, Huffman began his professional vaulting career with the ultimate goal of making the United States Olympic team. Huffman challenged for spots on the U.S. team at the Olympic trials in both 1988 and 1992 but barely missed making it in the top three. However, by 1996, Huffman was at the top of his game.
In May 1996, Huffman cleared the American record of nineteen feet, seven inches, just two months before the Olympic trials were set to begin. His jump was the third best in the world in 1996 and put Huffman among the world’s best in the sport. Huffman was in peak performance and vaulted his way onto the U.S. team for the 1996 Olympics.
Although he didn’t medal in the Olympics in 1996, Huffman’s legacy on the pole vaulting stage in American history was already set. Huffman’s American record stood for nearly two years before it was broken.
For all of his achievements, Huffman has been honored by several organizations, including being named an inductee of the Drake Relays Hall of Fame, the University of Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Pole Vault Summit Hall of Fame. Today, Huffman adds another honor to the list and the math still adds up.