Bill Sefton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bill Sefton
Bill Sefton 1935.jpg
Bill Sefton in 1935
Personal information
BornJanuary 21, 1915
Los Angeles, California, United States
DiedMay 2, 1982 (aged 67)
Plano, Texas, United States
Height1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Weight82 kg (181 lb)
SportPole vault
ClubUSC Trojans, Los Angeles
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals1936

William Healy Sefton (January 21, 1915 – May 2, 1982) was an American pole vaulter. Sefton broke the pole vault world record several times in 1937 and placed fourth in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Athletic career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Sefton was a good pole vaulter already in 1932, while still at Polytechnic High School. He vaulted 13 ft ​5 14 in (4.09 m) for a national high school record[1][2] and shared first place in the California interscholastic championship meet.[3] In 1934 he vaulted at least 14 ft (4.26 m) on four occasions, clearing 14 ft ​12 in (4.28 m) at Santa Barbara on April 28,[4] and tied for first at the national junior championships with a new meeting record of 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m).[5]

Sefton and Earle Meadows were teammates at the University of Southern California and collectively known as the "Heavenly Twins".[6] The two tied for first at the 1935 NCAA championship meet, both vaulting 14 ft ​1 18 in (4.29 m) for a new meeting record as USC won the team title.[7][8] They also tied at the national championships, both clearing 13 ft ​10 38 in (4.22 m) to share first place.[9]


Sefton and Meadows tied at the NCAA meet again in 1936, this time vaulting 14 ft ​1 34 in (4.31 m) to improve their meeting record by a fraction of an inch.[7][10] At the national championships George Varoff won with a new world record of 14 ft ​6 12 in (4.43 m) while Sefton vaulted 14 ft (4.26 m) for third.[9] However, the Olympic trials were held separately the following week and there Varoff only placed fourth and was left off the team, while Sefton, Meadows and returning Olympian and USC graduate Bill Graber all cleared 14 ft 3 in (4.34 m) to tie for first.[11] It was the first time one university had swept the three Olympic spots at the trials.[11]

Sefton almost failed to qualify for the Olympic final, missing twice at 3.80 m (12 ft ​5 58 in) in qualifying but clearing cleanly on his third attempt.[12] In the final Meadows won with an Olympic record of 4.35 m (14 ft ​3 14 in) while Sefton and two Japanese vaulters, Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Ōe, all cleared 4.25 m (13 ft ​11 38 in) and had an extra vault as a tie-breaker.[13][14] Sefton lost the jump-off and thus finished out of the medals in fourth place.[14]


Sefton broke the world record several times in 1937. He first improved it in Los Angeles on April 10, clearing 14 ft ​7 38 in (4.45 m) to beat Varoff's mark from the previous year.[15] A month later in San Francisco he cleared 14 ft ​8 12  (4.48 m) in a dual meet against Stanford, but Meadows equaled that height later in the same competition.[16] Finally, in the conference meet on May 29, again in Los Angeles, Sefton vaulted 14 ft 11 in (4.54 m), clearing that height on his first attempt.[17] Meadows, despite missing on his first two attempts, again tied the new record on his third and final try.[17] The two were not able to attempt 15 ft (4.57 m) that day as the standards maxed out at 14 ft 11 in and the bar couldn't be raised any higher.[17][18] Only these last records were officially ratified by the IAAF.[19]

Sefton finally won outright at the NCAA championships, clearing 14 ft ​8 78 in (4.49 m) for a meeting record and beating both Varoff and Meadows.[7] It was only in 1951 that Don Laz of Illinois broke that record.[7][20] Sefton also won the 1937 national title with a leap of 14 ft ​7 58 in (4.46 m), another meeting record; Dutch Warmerdam, Meadows and Varoff all cleared the same height but missed out on countback.[9][21]


  1. ^ "Olympics Beckon High School Stars". The Milwaukee Journal. June 27, 1932. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  2. ^ "Polytechnic Student Yearbook". 1932. p. 126. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  3. ^ "Previous CIF Champions" (pdf). California Interscholastic Federation; DyeStat. p. 14.
  4. ^ Dumas, Gerard. "14-FOOT ERA (4.26,7m)". Pole Vault Canada. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  5. ^ Kirksey, George (June 30, 1934). "Far Westerners Score 24 Points; Big Meet Today". Nevada State Journal. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  6. ^ "Earle Meadows Bio, Stats and Results". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Hill, E. Garry. "All-Time NCAA Men's Results/POLE VAULT" (pdf). Track & Field News.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Three New Marks for N.C.4.A. Meet". Lawrence Journal-World. June 24, 1935. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Mallon, Bill; Buchanan, Ian; Track & Field News. "A History Of The Results Of The National Track & Field Championships Of The USA From 1876 Through 2011". Track & Field News. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  10. ^ "Trojan Star to Appear in Meet Here". The Milwaukee Journal. June 24, 1936. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Hymans, Richard. "The History of the United States Olympic Trials – Track & Field". USA Track & Field; Track & Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  12. ^ "SEFTON QUALIFIES IN POLE VAULT". The Telegraph. August 5, 1936. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  13. ^ "Athletics at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games: Men's Pole Vault". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Meadows Breaks Vault Record". The Milwaukee Journal. August 5, 1936.
  15. ^ "Sefton Sets Vault Mark". The Pittsburgh Press. April 11, 1937. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  16. ^ "Meadows, Sefton Vault 14 Feet 8½". The Day. May 10, 1937. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  17. ^ a b c "California Duo Sets Unofficial Record In Meet". St. Petersburg Times. May 30, 1937. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  18. ^ "Bill Sefton Bio, Stats and Results". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  19. ^ Butler, Mark; IAAF Media & Public Relations Department, IAAF Statistics Handbook Daegu 2011, International Association of Athletics Federations
  20. ^ "Two Records Set, Trojans Win at NCAA". The Miami News. June 16, 1951. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  21. ^ Weekes, William (July 4, 1937). "TOLMICH AND CUNNINGHAM STAR IN AAU MEET AT MILWAUKEE". Big Spring Daily Herald. Retrieved March 27, 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
United States George Varoff
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
April 10, 1937 – April 13, 1940
Succeeded by
United States Cornelius Warmerdam