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?