June 3, 2013
SEATTLE - Washington athletics lost a legend recently, as it was reported that Husky Hall of Famer and former pole vault World Record-holder Brian Sternberg passed away at the age of 69. Sternberg's life was one of soaring heights and unprecedented physical feats, as well as perseverance in the face of personal tragedy, as he lived the past 50 years as a quadriplegic after a trampoline accident left him paralyzed.
According to Sternberg's mother and caretaker, Helen, Brian had spent the past 14-15 months in the hospital, "His heart and lungs finally gave out," on May 23, she told SporrtspressNW.
It was just last month that Sternberg was honored once again for his athletic achievements, as he was inducted into the Wall of Fame at the historic Penn Relays in Philadelphia. Sternberg came to Philadelphia for the 1963 Penn Relays and set a pair of meet records. His clearance of 16-1 won the competition, but his 16-5 established a World Record. His Penn Relays record lasted until 1971.
A 1961 graduate of Seattle's Shoreline High School, Sternberg won the 1963 NCAA pole vault title as just a 19-year-old sophomore, and went on to set the world record in the event on three occasions, the last a 16-foot, eight-inch clearance at the Compton (Calif.) Relays in June of that year. Just a sophomore, Sternberg was named to the United States' team for the annual U.S.-Russia dual meet later that summer, but saw his career cut short by a trampoline accident on July 2 that left him paralyzed below the neck.
His Modesto Relays world record vault just an hour apart from teammate and lifetime friend Phil Shinnick also setting a World Record in the long jump with a mark of 27-4 will forever remain one of the great moments in UW athletics and track and field history.
Sternberg was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1983, and is also a member of the Washington Sports Hall of Fame, and the North American Pole Vault Association Hall of Fame, and was the North American recipient of the 1963 Helms World Trophy, awarded to the top athlete on each of the six major continents.
A public memorial service is planned for June 22 at First Free Methodist Church near Seattle Pacific University at 2 p.m.