WINTER PARK — It was not the least bit surprising to see Northside Christian's Grant Rideout and Admiral Farragut's Donovan Erbe erupt into the air and clear 14 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault.
But it was close to surreal to see both chasing the Blue Jackets' Gem Runyan for the top spot at the Class A state meet.
In an event that demands an intricate blend of mental and physical agility and superb timing, Runyan coordinated perfectly and lofted himself over the bar at 14-6.
The difference was Runyan did it first, which was enough to win his first state title. Rideout was second and Erbe third.
It was quite a leap for Runyan, a junior who finished fourth at regionals and whose previous career best was 13 feet.
"I was a little nervous," Runyan said. "I thought maybe I could go 13-6. Once I cleared that, I started feeling more comfortable. And once I got 14-6, I just felt relieved, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders."
Runyan's performance did not seem possible considering he broke one of the poles and struggled in practice this week.
"There were a lot of psychological things working to get (Gem) ready for this meet," Admiral Farragut coach Phil Barnhill said. "He was having a tough time. But I told him that if he got off to a quick start, he was capable of stealing this event."
Runyan shared the spotlight with teammate Rayshawn Jenkins, who won the 110 hurdles in 14.93 seconds and was second in the 300 hurdles (40.02).
Both helped the Blue Jackets finish fifth overall with 36 points.
"I worked all season for this," said Jenkins, who entered the finals as the top seed in both events. "I knew I could do well in the 110 hurdles. There were some guys who were close to me, but I tried to worry about them.
"I felt I could be top three in the 300 hurdles, but I was surprised to get second."
Calvary Christian's Pierce Hutcheson was the defending state champion in the 300 hurdles and the only participant to run under 40 seconds at regionals. But in the preliminaries, he fell on the final hurdle and struggled to finish fourth in his heat. He was ninth overall, just missing the cut for the final.
Indian Rocks Christian's Brent Montzka was the runnerup in the 800, finishing in 1:58.61.
In the 3,200, Northside Christian's Katelyn Greenleaf ran 11:07.93 to finish fourth, the highest placement among county girl participants.