Frosh flying high
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What brought Tristan Slater to attempt the pole vault, one of track and field's most unusual events?
The Capital High freshman flashed back to his early days at Stonewall Jackson Middle School and related a brief, comical tale.
"I was in sixth grade, the middle of the season and I saw the girls jumping in the pole vault," he said Wednesday. "And I told my coach, 'I want to do that sport with a stick.' And it just kind of went from there."
From there to his first state meet, which will be contested next week at Laidley Field. He qualified for that with his 12-foot, 6-inch vault Wednesday at the Class AAA Region 3 meet, also at Laidley.
Slater did what he has done pretty much all spring - beat the field.
He wasn't thrilled with missing at 13 feet, though, as he was left a foot below his personal record. Unofficially, he is tied for the state's best height this season, 13-6, with Winfield junior Chris Cochran.
The runway was damp from previous rains and the plant box had to be suctioned out from time to time and the crew had a time getting that pesky bar to stand still, but Slater had other concerns.
Namely, that pole he carries everywhere, maybe even in his sleep. It's rated for 160 pounds and he's outgrowing it. He has ordered new equipment.
"One-seventy pole, that's what we're hoping to get in before states," he said.
You don't shop for those at the local sporting goods store. Slater said the price tag is around $400 - and then you hope the pole doesn't break during shipping.
Slater said he cleared 10-7 in middle school, a height that would have earned him the fourth qualifying spot in Wednesday's meet. He cleared 13-6 at the Capital Classic and again at the Gazette Relays, and he wants to push the bar to 14 feet next week.
And he'll have three years to raise it some more. With the right mentality and, yes, good equipment, who knows?
"I have to be more technical. That's all I have to say," Slater said.
He also tried to qualify in the long jump, but finished fifth. His best is 19-6, but he only managed 18-7 this time.
Ripley's Ryan Gregory was the meet's triple-winner, sweeping the hurdle events and winning the long jump at 20-3. He covered the 110 in 16.62 and the 300 in 41.05.
George Washington's Matt Bradford and Capital's Peyton Panger swept 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Bradford won by 23 seconds in the longer race, finishing at 9 minutes, 40.28 seconds, and held off Greenbrier East's Levi Snedegar in the 1,600 with a time of 4:34.95. Panger won her two races easily, finishing the 1,600 in 5:22.41 and the 3,200 in 11:28.42.
GW's boys also won with Jacob Jackson in the 400 (50.68), while Capital won the 4x100 (44.73) and 4x200 (1:33.58) relays. The Cougars' Tatiyanna Wood won the 100 hurdles (16.28), Riverside's Shakira Bowman took the 100 (13.40), Zhakiya Brown of South Charleston won the 200 (27.77) and GW freshman Lillie Jacobs won the discus (112-6).
Greenbrier East swept the team titles, outpointing Ripley 145-95 on the boys side, with GW third with 75 and Capital fourth with 72. It was the Spartans' second boys region title in a row after a 20-year drought.
The GE girls won their second regional title in three years, downing Shady Spring 155-115. Boys and girls combined, East won 11 events.
"We have a lot of depth, large numbers," said boys coach Jim McCutcheon. "We worked hard, and we were able to spread the points around."
The top three in each event (four in high jump and pole vault) qualified for the state meet, with four more qualifiers to be named among the four regions (except for high jump and pole vault).
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.