Stacy Renée Dragila (née Mikaelson; born 25 March 1971 in Auburn, California) is an American former pole vaulter.
Stacy grew up in the rural town of Auburn. When her older brother Eric got involved with Rodeo, she followed him into the sport. She also participated in gymnastics, but had to give it up due to childhood asthma.
She attended Placer Union High School where she played volleyball and ran on the track team as a sprinter, hurdler and jumper. Early on, she didn't feel she was living up to her potential. She got coaching from Yuba Community College's John Orognen. She managed to get to the finals of the 300 meters hurdles at the CIF California State Meet, but didn't place. She placed second at the Golden West Invitational in the 400 meters hurdles.
After high school, she continued to Yuba College and continued with Orognen, working on hurdles and eventually spreading her effort to the heptathlon. Her primary focus was to gain a track scholarship to a four-year school. Orognen was diagnosed with lung cancer. From his death bed he advised her to pursue her dreams without compromise.
Dave Nielsen offered the promising heptathlete a scholarship to Idaho State University. While there, her scores improved to the respectable range of 4,700 to 4,800 points, but she seemed to reach a ceiling. She also married Iraq war veteran Brent Dragila.
An ex-pole vaulter, Nielsen got her to try the pole vault. At the time it was not an official event for women. She reluctantly gave it a try to appease her coach. She showed no aptitude for the event. But with Nielsen's coaching and body control coaching from his wife, Joy Umenhofer who coached for the United States Tumbling & Trampoline team, she was able to get the hang of it. She cleared 10 feet in 1994 and was surprised when Track and Field News published the mark as an American record.
As the women's pole vault was becoming a demonstration sport, she vaulted at more and more competitions. She cleared 11 feet in 1995 at the BYU Cougar Track Invitational., 11'2" at the Prefontaine Classic and almost 11'6" as a demonstration at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The national championships qualified her to compete with the U.S. team in Great Britain. She joined the European track circuit where her marks continued to improve. The sport gained popularity during the season, with China's Sun Caiyun, Czech Republic's Daniela Bártová and Australia's Emma George attempting to set new world records at every meet before her eyes as Stacy improved to over 12 feet.
After graduating, Nielsen gave her a job as assistant coach, which she supplemented by working as a waitress. Her improvement continued, clearing 13 feet in January 1996. By June she was up to 13' 9" The Olympic Trials held the women's pole vault as a demonstration event, which Stacy won by a foot. But there was no Olympics for her that year.
The first ever women's pole vault world championship was held at the 1997 IAAF World Indoor Championships. All the top vaulters were there and Stacy took the gold medal, setting a new indoor world record in the process. Along with the win came $25,000 in prize money, but the IAAF instead disqualified her from the prize money because Stacy's skimpy outfit didn't leave room for the sponsor's bib number. It took a succession of apologetic letters to collect her prize.
Though she tried, sponsorships were hard to come by. Athletic women pole vaulting in skimpy outfits attracted the public's attention, but the event was not yet scheduled for the outdoor World Championships or Olympics. The vigorous move to Olympic status started before the 17,000 strong crowd at the 1998 Millrose Games, with Stacy attempting a world record over 14'6" at the end of a battle with Janine Whitlock of Great Britain. In the next weeks, Emma George kept improving the world record, becoming the first woman over 15 feet, Stacy was right there in position to challenge until a stress fracture curtailed her season.
At the invitation of Amy Acuff, Stacy posed for a calendar to benefit the Florence Griffith Joyner Foundation. The photo attracted attention and turned Stacy into a hot commodity for photo sessions with Vogue and W. Suddenly, sponsors were calling her.
While others, including Tatiana Grigorieva, Kellie Suttle and Melissa Mueller were improving the records, it increased the popularity of the sport and increased the prize money. When the Santa Barbara Beach Vault offered $100,000 to the first woman to clear 15 feet, Stacy cashed in.
With all this popularity, the IOC had little choice but to include the women's pole vault in the 2000 Olympic program. The first outdoor world championship was held at the 1999 World Championships in Athletics. While Emma George had a bad day competitively, Stacy took not only the gold medal but George's world record, which George would never get back. With the new rule allowing indoor marks to be counted as world records, Stacy continued to improve the world record and held it continuously for almost four years, save a 6-day period when Svetlana Feofanova took the record in the 2001 indoor season. Yelena Isinbayeva finally took the record in 2003 and is still the current world record holder.
At the 2000 Summer Olympics she won the first gold medal in women's pole vaulting dramatically coming from behind to beat the former Soviet turned Australian Grigorieva on home turf.
She also repeated gold at the 2001 World Championships in Athletics. She is a 2-time Jesse Owens Award winner (2000, 2001). Her best mark in the pole vault is 4.83 metres, set in Ostrava in 2004.
She divorced Brent in 2006.
Stacy Dragila resides in San Diego, California and is the founder of Altius Track Club.
She made the 2009 World Championships in Athletics her final major championship and she finished with a jump of 4.25 m, not progressing to the pole vault final. Dragila was one of the foremost athletes in the early years of women's pole vaulting, winning the gold medal at the first three major pole vaulting championships. Her best vault of 4.83 m set in 2004 was significantly higher than other female vaulters of her generation.
While she jumped 4.70m at age 37, her 4.55m at age 38 in 2009 is the ratified W35 Masters World Record.
Dragila married American discus thrower Ian Waltz and welcomed daughter Allyx (an alternative spelling of the standard 'Alex') Josephine Waltz on June 21, 2010.
In 2014, she was elected into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. Dragila Way, on the campus of Idaho State University is named in her honor.
|1997||World Indoor Championships||Paris, France||1st||Pole vault|
|1999||World Championships||Seville, Spain||1st||Pole vault|
|2000||Olympic Games||Sydney, Australia||1st||Pole vault|
|2001||World Championships||Edmonton, Alberta||1st||Pole vault|
|2001||Goodwill Games||Brisbane, Australia||1st||Pole vault|
|2003||World Athletics Final||Fontvieille, Monaco||1st||Pole vault|
|2004||World Indoor Championships||Budapest, Hungary||2nd||Pole vault|
- USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
- Pole vault (9): 1996†, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
- USA Indoor Track and Field Championships
- Pole vault (8): 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004
† The 1996 contest was a non-championship event