Living a Dream: It Takes a Village

Inaugural Living a Dream
Here at home the Reverend Bob Richards, two time Olympic Pole Vault Champion, just sailed over a cross bar dangling from a cloud.

Looking back, that cloud could not have been higher than 4.72 meters (15 feet 5.8 inches) because that was Richards’ best vault ever. The medalists in the Women’s Pole Vault in Rio would have sent Rev Bob home empty handed. And forget about the Wheaties Box. Ekateríni Stefanie (Greece), and Holly Bradshaw (Great Britain) went Gold and Silver at 4.85, Stefanie winning on fewer misses. Eliza McCartney (New Zealand) took Bronze with 4.80.

As a sports fan I have always enjoyed the celebrations after the event almost as much as the event itself. Especially if I have skin in the game. I love the champaign baths and the victory dances. But I also love the interviews, impromptu on-the-spot or in-depth sit down conversations.

I’m always impressed with the sincerity of the athletes as they thank teachers, coaches, family, friends and often God for the support that made their victories possible. And I love their stories. Especially when they pay homage to their fellow athletes who, either by example or through competition brought the very best out of them.

Today Living a Dream celebrates these ‘fellow athletes’ by adding their stories to the mix. Be sure to Like because we have more.

“It takes a village. This is mine.”  Tori PenaImage-1 (1)

(Left to right) Natasha Harvey ALTIS Jumps Coach, Dan Pfaff ALTIS Head Coach,  Tori Pena ALTIS Olympic Pole Vaulter, Chad Stoermer ALTIS Pole Vaulter, Greg Hull ALTIS Pole Vault Coach

Getting emotional here so this will be long winded…
Since 2010 I’ve had the pleasure and absolute honor of representing Ireland. This morning was my last time putting on my uniform and proudly giving it my all. I’ve competed at 3 World Championships, 5 European Championships and 2 Olympic Games. But so much more importantly, I’ve had the honor to compete with some amazing women. (Seriously, women’s pole vault is on fire and I’m happy to say I’ve competed with these athletes) I’ve made friends with ladies from around the world who have shown me strength, courage, bravery, and joy. This journey has been painstaking and heart wrenching. It’s been beautiful and profound. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought imaginable. Believe in yourself people, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.

I also can’t even begin to name all the people who have helped me along the way. From high school coaches and school teachers. To my amazing training partners, coaches, and therapists. Friends and athletes who have picked me up from the airport at strange hours and given me a place to sleep or a ride to the next meet with my poles. The list goes on full of odd and obscure favors from people in the pole vault community and far beyond. I’ve loved every minute of it! thank you, thank you, thank you

Melinda Owen Withrow


This was not how I envisioned it ending… 8 years I put into chasing a dream that I believed whole heartedly I could achieve. Until that moment I didn’t. Yesterday, as I looked around myself and realized there where 21 other girls with the same dream slip through their fingers. Who am I to think I deserved it more than anyone else? I didn’t work any harder. I know because I’ve seen most of them work. I know theirs stories, their dreams, how much their families believed in them.

So today, even knowing the ending, I will hold my head high and know that I left it ALL out there.  I would not go back and trade a single day, of the blood, sweat, or tears, because the joy that this sport has brought to me, the friendships I have made, and person I have become.  I had Family and friends go to great lengths to be by my side, wanting it just as bad as I did. As hard as it was to finish on such a disappointing note, I needed them there more at that moment then ever before. The sacrifice to pursue this dream was not mine, but everyone around me.

Thank you all for the support over these years, every text, message, kind word, financial support. It means more to me than I could ever express. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! And Ian, you better get ready, you’re about to have a full time wife 😉.

Coming up on Living a Dream
Olympics wrap-up
Profiles in Dedication: Crossroads
Has the Trail Gone Cold on Constance Delaney?

Living a Dream: Skin in the Game


The journey starts with a hungry heart
fed by the archetypical dream
of glory not for the chosen
but for the choosers

As blogs go Living a Dream is more about dedication to a dream than in chronicling wins and losses. More about the experience than the results. Dave and I are blessed to rub elbows with coaches and athletes who have worked more than hard enough to succeed in their sport, have exceeded the norms for learning curves, have offered the support of friendship to their colleagues and competitors alike. They have enriched our lives simply by showing up every day and being the exemplary human beings they have chosen to be.

There is no shame
no one to blame
but it’s just not the same
without skin in the game

And a having a legendary coach doesn’t hurt. Among other attributes, ALTIS Head Coach Dan Pfaff is King of the One-liners:
Improve accountability, transparency and cooperation from all the stakeholders.
dan Pfaff dpfaff@PfaffSC

Garry: You know Dave, being such ALTIS fans we might be viewed as a tad unpatriotic.
Dave: Because we might root for an athlete from another country?
Garry: Well, I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but yeah.
Dave: What about team sports? Would you root against the US Soccer team?
Garry: Of course not.
Dave: Would it bother you if the United States didn’t win the most gold medals?
Garry: A little bit, maybe. But I could live with it.
Dave: Then you should probably stick with Track & Field.
Garry: You mean it’s ok for me to want Usain Bolt to beat Justin Gatlin?
Dave: I’d say just stick with ALTIS. They’re like family.
Garry: Yeah, I guess if an American sprinter and a Canadian sprinter went head to head…
Dave: They’re both ALTIS.
Garry: So it’s a win/win. (Thoughtful pause) I hope Bolt destroys Gatlin.

These are the ALTIS athletes competing in Rio. You can follow Dave and me (Living a Dream) as we try to keep up with them, 0r you can do your own Facebooking, twittering and snapchatting and we can follow you. You’re bound to be faster.

Akeem Haynes     100m, 4 x 100m
Andre Degrasse    100m, 2oom, 4 x 100m
Christabel Netty   Long Jump

United States
Ameer Webb       200m, 4x100m
Trenton Merrill   Long Jump
Jahvid Bes             100m
Jeremy Dodson    100m, 200m

Torri Pena             Pole Vault

Great Britain
Greg Rutherford   Long Jump
Dan Greaves          Discus
Jodie Williams      200m

Kenia Sinclair        800m

Matthias Buhler     110H

Mikel Thomas         110H

Yosiri Urrutia         Triple Jump

Vikas Gowda            Discus

Ivory Coast
Wilfried Koffi Hua  100m, 200m, 4×100

Ella Nelson                200m
Fabrice Lapierre      Long Jump

Sierra Leone
Hafsa Kamara          100m, 200m

Isabell Pederson     100m

Coming soon to Living a Dream
Profiles in Dedication: Crossroads
Retweet this…Please
Ten things we don’t get about the Olympics: You show me yours and I’ll show you mine. (You go first.)
Garry’s first rant: It’s nice you follow me. I just wish you could catch up.