MINDEN, Nev. (KOLO) - What are said to be the best poles in the world for pole vaulting are made in Minden.
Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie has broken Sergey Bubka's 21-year-old pole vault world record with a 6.16m leap in the Ukrainian's home city of Donetsk on February 14, 2014. The Frenchman cleared the height to beat the last record set set indoors in February 1993.
The last world record was made on a pole constructed at UCS Spirit in Carson City. Olympic French champion Renaud Lavillenie set this record in Ukraine in February 2014. He used a pole made in northern Nevada to jump and clear a pole sitting 20 feet, 2-and-a-half inches high.
He broke the record that was set 20 years earlier. This world record was made possible in part because of the work inside UCS Spirit's factory.
"All the world records since we began have been set on spirit poles made in Carson City and here in Minden," said UCS Spirit's Director of Manufacturing, Lane Maestretti.
UCS Spirit has been in northern Nevada for 30 years dating to 1987.
Making poles for pole vaulting starts with extremely strong fiberglass.
"We can tear it easily. The resin will just peel away as we tear it, but it's very, very high-strength 20-percent glass and 30-percent resin," said a worker as he easily tears the fiberglass apart.
Pound for pound, fiberglass is stronger than sheet metal, but it's also flexible and extremely lightweight. The company says it's the perfect combination to launch an athlete several feet into the air.
Large sheets are placed on the cutting table. A machine's small blade cuts two precise parts for each pole scheduled for production. The body piece is in the shape of a rectangle and runs the full length of the pole.
The sail piece is designed to add more material to the center of the pole where the weight of the vaulter's body will leave the most stress as he catapults his body high into the air.
The thickness of the fiberglass and the pole's diameter will determine the strength of the finished pole. Those two pieces are taken to a second station inside UCS Spirit's warehouse, where a worker irons the body piece onto a large metal mold.
Then a hot machine clamps down on the metal pole and the loose fiberglass hanging on. It slowly rolls and heats the pole until all the fiberglass is wrapped rightly around. The heat and rolling action forces the fiberglass to adhere together in the shape of a pole.
Next, the sail piece is put in place. Its cut is in the shape of a triangle, but the same basic process is put in place to wrap it over the body piece around the pole.
Workers put the pole into an autoclave oven for between 45 minutes and one hour. It applies heat, steam and pressure to the fiberglass wrapped around the pole. The process molds and cures the fiberglass together into its new permanent shape.
Finally, the newly-formed fiberglass pole is taken out of its steel mold because it's finally strong enough to hold its own shape.
The ends are cut. It's given a stress test and then an engraver is used to mark each pole. The marks indicates the pole's length and weight an athlete should be to use the instrument.
It takes about 2 hours to make one pole. The workers produce between 35 and 40 every day. Each will cost between $350 and $800.
Today the workers are shipping poles to Ohio State University. Others will make their way to high school teams, but the biggest and best will go to Olympic athletes who will lead the world in this sport.
The workers are ramping up production for the busiest season of the year in Europe. It's in the spring.
This process is the reason the company says the world's best poles for vaulting are made in northern Nevada.
In February 2017, UCS Spirit moved from its 6000-square-foot facility in Carson city to its current 18,000-square-foot facility in Minden.
"We rented for 30 years. had all intentions of building a building and just were busy and now we've finally moved into our own building," said Maestretti. "We have a very highly-skilled staff and we don't lay off anyone. We work year round and so this time of year we work to build inventory for the spring," he continued.
There is a pole vaulting clinic at the Livestock Events Center in Reno January 13. Olympic champions will be there to coach and perform. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend. The cost is $100 if you want to participate and $35 to watch.
You can get hands-on instruction and watch an elite competition Friday. Then you can try to compete Saturday. Click here for information about the event.