JACKSONVILLE — The torn anterior cruciate ligament in Jen Kistemaker’s left knee twas supposed to eliminate her from contention in the pole vault and change the calculus for the rest of the field in Class 3A.
But the Osceola junior was given permission by doctors to hold off surgery and continue vaulting, as long as she was able to withstand the pain.
Wearing a bulky brace, Kistemaker zeroed in on her ultimate goal of winning what had been an elusive state title. She won district and region titles and was seeded second heading into Saturday’s Class 3A state meet at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
Kistemaker showed grit to get past 14 competitors. The only rival left was Mitchell’s Taylor Anderson. Both engaged in a duel for the title and were the only ones to clear 11-6 in the finals.
Neither was able to successfully clear 12 feet, forcing a jump-off with the bar lowed to 11-9. After each missed her attempts it was back down to 11-6.
“It was a little bit of a bummer not to win,” Kistemaker said. “But I was glad just have the chance to compete.”
When the bar went to 10 feet in the final, Kistemaker’s left knee gave out. It happened again when the bar was at 12. Each time, Kistemaker found the wherewithal to keep going.
“That was one of worst pains I ever felt in my life,” Kistemaker said. “When my knee gave way at 10, I tried to do everything I could to mask it because I wanted to continue to vault, and I knew if I showed too much pain my coach would have made me stopped.”
In the end, the number of misses once the bar was raised past 11-6 took a toll on Kistemaker. She became fatigued, missing on her seven attempts at three different heights.
“It was tough because I felt like I was just wearing down,” she said.
Still, Kistemaker’s resolve helped push Anderson to her first state track title.
“Jen is so tough,” Anderson said. “To have that happen to her and to hurt herself again and keep going is amazing.”
The state title capped off a remarkable ascension for Anderson, a junior who had not qualified for a state meet in her marquee event until this season. Her winning height of 11-6 also set a personal record by a foot.
“It was such a great competition,” Anderson said. “Jen is such a great competitor, and I knew I was probably going to have to jump 11-6 to win. Having Jen there pushed me and kept the adrenaline going.”
Largo’s Daisha Brown was seventh in the triple jump (36 feet, 1 ¼ inch). Osceola’s Jeanna Cube tied for seventh in the high jump at 5 feet. And Clearwater’s Erin Avers was fifth in the 800 (2:17.44).