Lee Barnes

Class of 1924

Lee Barnes

Thirteen feet, two inches may not seem like a big deal for a high school pole vaulter – certainly not in an era where Armand Duplantis has exceeded 19 feet. But when you think about bamboo poles instead of fiberglass, and sawdust landing pits instead of giant foam pads – and the fact that it was 94 years ago – well, that seems little more impressive.

As a Hollywood HS junior in California in 1923, Lee Barnes tied for the state title with a clearance of 12-3.5, and was runner-up at the national scholastic meet. A year later, however, he improved nearly a foot – becoming the first prep over 13 feet and eventually getting over 13-2. That mark lasted four years. He defended his state title, then tied with Glen Graham in the Olympic Trials to earn a berth on the U.S. team for the 1924 Games in Paris.

There it was Barnes and Graham again, with Barnes on this occasion needing just 12 feet to secure the gold medal. He went on to compete at USC, then returned to the Olympics in 1928, placing 5th in Amsterdam. Barnes had the unique honor of doing stunt double work for silent film star Buster Keaton. In Keaton’s 1927 feature College, Barnes vaulted through an open upper-story window.

Did You Know?

Lee Barnes, prior to his second Olympic Games, was a stunt double for film star Buster Keaton, vaulting through an upper-story window.