JACKSONVILLE — After lofting himself comfortably over the bar at 14 feet, Devon Jerothe stood in the pole vault pit and pumped his arms in celebration and relief.
No one else cleared that height, which assured the River Ridge senior of winning his first state title.
“It’s such an incredible feeling, but one I was not expecting,” Jerothe said.
His quest to win at Saturday’s Class 3A meet at the University of North Florida ended almost at the start.
Jerothe landed awkwardly in the pit during warmups and felt something pop in his elbow. The trainers said it was more of a strain, allowing him to continue.
Jerothe entered at 13 feet, but missed his first two attempts. Battling wind and consistent rain that delayed the event twice, Jerothe was down to his final jump. He paused only for a moment on the runway, allowing himself no chance to think of failure. Then he began his run-up and easily lifted himself past the mark.
“I was terrified at the beginning,” Jerothe said. “I missed those first two attempts. The weather was bad. I was down to that last one. But I decided I wasn’t going to change anything. I just went out and jumped.”
Jerothe needed his final attempt to clear the next height, too. But as the bar kept rising, so did Jerothe’s confidence.
He caught a break when the favorite, Osceola’s Carson Waters, failed to clear 13-6. Waters entered with the top seed at 15-6, a foot ahead of Jerothe.
Waters finished fifth.
“It feels great to win, but at the same time I feel so bad for Carson,” Jerothe said. “We’re great friends, and in all honesty, he’s probably a better vaulter than me. I came in here thinking he was probably going to win this.”
Said Waters, who was hoping to have a shot at the all-time state mark of 16-8: “I was just off for some reason. I was using the same pole I did last week when I cleared 15-6. This week, I can’t even get past 13 feet. It’s disappointing.”
The state title caps off Jerothe’s career in the event. He is attending the University of West Florida, which doesn’t have a track program, and he will be 19 by the summer and unable to compete on the AAU circuit.
“I would have loved to continue vaulting, but didn’t get any offers,” Jerothe said. It’s a great way to go out.”
Jerothe was the only boys champion from the North Suncoast in the 3A/4A meets.
Springstead’s Bobby Harris, the defending state champion in high jump, finished fifth with a mark of 6-4.
Land O’Lakes’ Stefan Zapata leaped 44-7 to take third in the triple jump. Teammate Jake Poore was sixth in the 3,200 (9:18.68).