​By the end of my senior year in HS, I was still only 5"8" 145 pounds, and not quite what

Division 1 schools were looking for.  I chose to attend Olivet Nazarene University (went from a pretzel to a tiger) in Bourbonnais, Illinois just south of Chicago.  I naturally chose this school since it's where my parents and my siblings attended. 

Mark Hollis USA           P​oleVault 

I saw a lot of improvement that indoor season and in the span of one month I jumped 40cm/ 1ft 4in higher than I had in college!  My jump of 5.75m/18'10 was the 3rd highest in the world at the time and things were looking good to make the Olympic team.  Inexperience at the professional level then snuck up and bit me in the butt as I was unable to make it through to the finals of the Olympic Trials.  The next year I took my first trip to Europe!  Wow, what an experience and I'll never forget that feeling of wonder and adventure knowing that pole vault was taking me around the world.  In 2009 I jumped 5.70m/18'8 at USA nationals after breaking 2 toes mid-comp, I finished in 5th place and missed the World Championship team by 1 spot!  It was also in the summer of 2009 that I married my best friend Amanda!  

 I continued to train in South Bend, Indiana and had a great season in 2010!  I won my first USA National Championship as well as tied my PB (personal best) in Europe!  The next few years were full of ups and downs, I struggled the majority of 2011 with consistency but still was able to make the World Championship team in Daegu, Korea.  What an honor to wear the Red, White, and Blue across my chest!  It was also in 2011 that I made the decision to end my coaching relationship with Danny.  It was a tough choice but thankfully, we have remained friends and can share in each other's successes.  2012 brought the Olympics in London...I had been training well and had a great chance to make the team this time around.  I jumped well - but in the rain and headwind at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, I couldn't make the height needed (5.72m/18'9") and finished 5th - 2 places out of the team.

 2013 brought more disappointment and struggle.  I battled the entire year with the feeling that I couldn't hold on to the pole (read about it here), and it was a personal victory for me to jump a seasons best of 5.50m/18'.  It was during this that I knew a change needed to be made if I was to continue vaulting.  In June, Amanda and I  moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to work with Tim Mack, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist which has made all the difference!  Working with Tim has been unlike anything I've ever done. Tim holds all his athletes to the highest level, just as he did himself.  I've had the best season of my life, finishing 2nd at the USA National Meet and jumping 5.82m/19"1" - you can watch that jump in my media section. 


 Through it all...  the ups and downs -  highs and lows ...2 things have been so constant even when I couldnt see them at times.  God had and has a plan for my life - that's the first thing.  He took me through the bad times to show me how great the good times could be and to show others there is hope.  He taught me to trust in Him above all things because He has a path for me even if I can only see the first step (Proverbs 3:5&6).  I hope that as you see me on this journey and see any successes I have,  that you will see my life like an arrow pointed to the origin of all my success!  The truth of it is very simple and quite easy - God loves every one of us - period.  No matter what we've done in our lives, it's not too big for Him to take care of.  He has made you special and He knows you by name (He even knows the number of hairs on your head).  He loves you so much that He sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ so that He could have a relationship with you! What an awesome love and grace! (John 3:16&17)

   The 2nd constant has been my family.  They have loved me and believed in me unconditionally in success and failure... I would have given up a long time ago without them.  Thank you Amanda, Mom and Dad, Steve and Stace, Julie and Steve, Brad, Elijah, Josiah, Jude, Noah and Hannah - I love you guys!   My journey is special because of the people who have been involved and who I can share it with.  They say it takes a village to raise a child... in this case it was a family, a church, a school, and the entire pole vault community.  My journey is far from over...SO - join me on this crazy ride! 


Always Pursuing,

Mark

Quick Stats

  • 14'6" best jump in High School
  • 9th Place finish at State Meet
  • 17'6" best jump in College 
  • '2x NAIA Champ '06 & '07
  • 3x USA National Champ '10,'11i,'14i
  • USA World Championship Team '11
  • 3x Olympic Trials Qualifier
  • 2x Olympic Trials Finalist 5th place '12 & 4th place '16
  • Bronze Medal Pan Am Games Toronto, Canada
  • Bronze Medal Continental Cup Marrakech, Morroco
  • 5.83m/19/2" Personal Best Jump

Steve!->

 It was at ONU that I found out that if I wanted to jump high, it was going to take hard work and "owning up" to the commitment that it would take to get it done.  Luckily I had an awesome coach Mike McDowell who taught me the commitment it took to succeed.  Wally Cramer my vault coach mentored me in many ways above and beyond just coaching me and I am eternally grateful for the 2 of them.  My hard work in the weight room and at the track was multiplied by a series of growth spurts that I experienced in my first couple of years at ONU.  I improved every year, 15'5" my freshman year, 5.10m/16'9" my sophomore year where I also finished 2nd at the NAIA National meet.  I jumped 5.30m/17'3" and won my first national championship junior year after not even qualifying for indoor nationals because of complications during a foot surgery the previous summer.  In 2007 I finished my collegiate career with a jump of 5.35m/17'6 and won my 2nd national championship.  


After college I knew I had so much more left in me!  I wanted to see what I was capable of and chase the dream of being an Olympian.  I had just started dating Amanda (now my wife) and had been driving to Indiana to see her very often.  When I was there I would train with the Bethel College track team and coach Danny Wilkerson.  In January of 2008 I moved to Indiana and began to work full time with Danny.  


Well, I was  a late bloomer...always the smallest and shortest in my class, but I could run pretty fast.  I finally got my chance to pole vault at Freeport High School- home of the Pretzels...

thats right, Pretzel Power baby (look it up).   Like quite a few other schools, we didn't have a  pole vault coach so my teammates and I would just try to figure it out as we went.    I jumped 7'6" in my first meet... not knowing at all what I was doing and in my eyes, not a very promising start.   I did however end up jumping 14'6" at the end of my senior year with lots of help from my bro Steve.  I made the state meet and ended up finishing in 9th place.  

 

I grew up in Freeport, Illinois about 2 hours west of Chicago.  

I am the youngest of 4, my brother Brad is 16 years older, my brother Steve-15, and my sister Julie is 13 years older than me.  

I was always climbing on things and would normally enter a room with a somersault or cartwheel.   Steve pole vaulted in high school and college and as a 3 year old, I wanted to be just like my big brother.  To mimic him, I would pick up a broomstick and "vault" in the backyard by clearing some landscaping...  Steve hooked me up with my first fiberglass pole from a broken one he had snapped at Christian Nationals his freshman year in college.  He cleaned it up, put some tape on it and away I went.  

 "Folks...that was a beautiful clearance by Hollis over the mums and into the mulch!  His next attempt will be over the 2' snap dragons...let's get him over this before his dad finds out what he's doing!!" Hahaha!