WINTER PARK— Roughly two hours before the Class 3A pole vault competition commenced Friday, Wiregrass Ranch junior Alex Kazanski discovered all five of his poles had been stolen from a storage shed at the meet's site.
Scurrying to resolve the problem, Kazanski's personal coach, Bill Cashman of nearby Longwood Lyman High, gave Kazanski's dad his keys and sent him on a 20-minute drive to Lyman for a spare. A girls competitor Cashman coaches also offered hers.
Kazanski got them in time and now has something no one can ever take from him: a state title.
Kazanski's 14-foot effort — 6 inches off the personal best he achieved at regionals — gave him his first state crown and capped a year of quantum progress. This time last year, Kazanski said he was vaulting 2 feet lower.
"We had what we needed, but they're two poles that he was completely unfamiliar with," said Cashman, a 26-year vaulting coach who stored the poles at Showalter Field after a mid-week workout with Kazanski.
"It does make that big a difference. .…It's a real test of will and a lot of resolve in the kid and determination, and that's something you can't teach someone. You either have that or you don't."
Kazanski was one of two North Suncoast athletes to win a state crown. Central junior Tikiera Relaford captured what is believed to be the first girls state track title in school history, winning the high jump. Relaford won with an effort of 5 feet, 6 inches, equaling a personal best she achieved last year. "I'm really excited," she said. "I wanted to (set a personal record) so bad today, but I'll leave that to next year."
Zephyrhills senior Lindsay Arnold capped a sparkling prep career with a photo-finish loss to Miami Central's Jatavia Wright in the 100-meter hurdles. Arnold's 14.52-second effort was 0.14 seconds behind Wright.
In a grueling triumvirate of events, Ridgewood junior Karissa Bertling fought through the heat to place fifth in the 400 and 100, and third in the 200. Though "dead" for the 400 by her own admission, Bertling notched a personal-best time in that event (56.85) and the 200 (24.80).
Other local girls medalists: Central's Raqurra Ishmar (second in girls shot), Mitchell's Kelli Williams (sixth in girls 1600), Springstead's Jackie White (fourth in 800) and Zephyrhills' Heather Haynie (winner, adaptive shot put). Other boys medalists: Nature Coast's Ja'Juan Story (seventh in 100) and Bruce Federico (sixth in 1,600), and the Sharks' boys 4x100 relay team (fourth).