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Credit: Courtesy of Penn Athletics

Entering the 2023-24 season, no Penn track and field pole vaulter had ever managed to successfully clear a height of 18 feet. 

This season has seen not one but two Quakers pole vaulters surpass this mark: senior Scott Toney and junior James Rhoads. Toney was the first to do so, breaking the Penn program record with a height of 18 feet and 0.5 inches at the Penn State National Open. Not to be outdone by his teammate, Rhoads followed suit two weeks later by resetting the record at 18 feet and 3.75 inches at the 2024 Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational.

Since then, Rhoads has pushed the program record even higher, reaching a height of 18 feet and 5.25 inches at the 64th Annual Mt. SAC Relays. The mark places Rhoads in a position to potentially qualify for the United States Olympic Track & Field trials, set to take place from June 21-30 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

At the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships earlier this year, both Toney and Rhoads topped out at 5.36 meters, with Toney claiming the Ivy League title due to using fewer attempts and Rhoads finishing in second. At the NCAA Division I Track and Field Indoor Championships a few weeks later, the two’s fates were reversed as both successfully cleared 5.50 meters — this time, Rhoads succeeded using fewer attempts to finish in fourth while Toney took home fifth. 

Rhoads and Toney also finished first and second at the 128th Penn Relay Carnival, where Rhoads became just the 12th Quakers pole vaulter to win a Penn Relays title and the first since John Gray in 1958. With the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships and the NCAA Division I Track and Field Outdoor Championships on the horizon, this dynamic duo still has plenty left in store.