JACKSONVILLE — Tampa Catholic’s Nicole Carroll didn’t feel like the defending state pole vault champion Friday morning.
With each miss, her confidence sank.
With each miss, her chances faded.
“It started off as probably the worst meet I’ve ever had,” she said.
But it ended entirely differently.
At one point Carroll was one miss from elimination, but she finally found her footing and cleared a career-best and school-record 12 feet to win her second straight Class 2A state championship.
“I wanted to win it because I won it last year, so there was a little extra pressure,” said Carroll, a junior.
Jesuit’s Nick Catchur, the defending 2A boys champion, wasn’t as fortunate, but he would have needed a career-best vault and then some to catch winner Harry Glasser of Jacksonville Bolles (16 feet), who cleared 2 feet more than his seeded height.
Catchur finished fourth at 14 feet (down from last year’s winning vault of 14-6), and teammate Jack Hughes was fifth, helping Jesuit to 17 points and a 10th-place finish, tops among local boys teams.
Carroll was the only state titlist from Hillsborough County competing in the Class A and 2A state meets, held simultaneously at the University of North Florida.
Carroll had already missed twice at 10 feet, 6 inches when she took off down the runway in a light rain and soared over the bar to stay alive.
“She pulled a rabbit out of the hat today,” said Bobby Haeck, her coach at Pole Vault City in Melbourne, where she trains on Sundays during the season.
“First of all, she’s down to her third attempt at 10-6, and she could have easily gone out of the competition. She comes through like a champ, and then she turns around and PRs at 12 feet in the rain. You don’t see people do that.”
Carroll wanted to go for the state record of 12-10, but the weather did not permit it. But she was prepared for the rain — her poles were kept in tubes, she wore surgical gloves to keep her hands dry, and there was plenty of chalk, tape and sticky spray to help grip the pole.
“We were probably the most prepared people out there,” she said.
Tampa Prep’s Oscar Skjaerpe nearly pulled off his own remarkable comeback.
Running in fifth place of the 800 heading to final curve, the Terrapin senior figured a medal was out of the question.
But the runners ahead of him started to fade, giving him hope for gold.
“Honestly, I was kind of skeptical, but then I caught one, and then another …and then I saw (winner Daniel Welch) and thought maybe I could catch this kid,” said Skjaerpe.
Welch, though, crossed the line just four hundredths of a second ahead of Skjaerpe, 1 minute, 56.96 seconds to 1:57.
“It was close,” the Terrapin said. “But he got it.”
Other top finishers from Friday’s A and 2A meets:
• Seffner Christian was the top local boys finisher in Class A, taking 11th behind Jamari Johnson and Robbie Shell. Johnson finished second in the discus (153-9) to account for eight of Seffner’s 14 teams points, and Shell was third in the long jump (21-5.75) to score the other six.
• Cambridge Christian’s Madison Cox was fifth in the 400 (59.32).
• Jesuit’s Jack Taylor finished fourth in the shot put (51-8) while teammate Vincent Jackson was eighth (47-103/4), and Taylor also finished seventh in the discus (146-4).
• Berkeley Prep’s Addi Harden threw the shot put 39-41/4 feet to finish fourth, one spot ahead of Tampa Catholic freshman Alise Davis (39-21/4).
• Tampa Catholic’s Nathan Nammour was eighth in the boys 400, finishing in 49.75 seconds.