JACKSONVILLE — The other 14 competitors were gone, eliminated at lower marks in the girls pole vault at Saturday’s Class 3A state meet.
That left Mitchell’s Taylor Anderson and Osceola’s Jen Kistemaker, friendly rivals who were engaged in a duel to win their first state title in the event at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville.
They were the only ones to clear 11-6 in the finals and each tried to push the other to new heights when the bar was raised to 12 feet.
Neither was able to successfully clear that mark, forcing a jump-off with the bar lowed to 11-9. They each missed their attempts — again. Now, it was back down to 11-6.
Anderson, using an intricate blend of physical agility and superb timing, coordinated perfectly to loft herself over the bar. The competition ended when Kistemaker missed her attempt.
The state title capped 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.”
Kistemaker was hobbled going into the meet. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee three weeks ago and decided to hold off surgery in order to compete for what has been an elusive state title.
Kistemaker wore a bulky brace as she sprinted down the runway. Her knee locked up on one of her jumps, but she found the wherewithal to continue. But after so many misses when the bar was raised past 11-6, she began to get fatigued.
“Jen is so tough,” Anderson said. “To have that happen to her and to hurt herself again and keep going is amazing.”
This was Anderson’s second state title in a sport this school year. In the fall, she took first in the 50 freestyle in swimming.
Three years ago Anderson decided to try pole vaulting. Her foray into that event almost had a quick ending. Russell Jerothe, who coached Mitchell’s vaulters during that time, considered cutting Anderson because he did not think she was coordinated enough to master the event.
But Jerothe kept Anderson because he knew how good — and versatile — she was as an athlete. Now Jerothe coaches Anderson in the vault at the club level.
With state titles in two sports, Anderson is trying to figure out which one to do in college.
“Actually, I want to do both,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, I’ll get that chance.”
Anderson wasn’t the only girls champion from the North Suncoast in the 3A/4A meets. Scarlett Lawhorne, a Zephyrhills senior, won the adaptive shot put (12-7 1/2).
Springstead’s Wilena Little cleared 18-1 ¼ to take second in the girls 3A long jump. Little hit that mark on her second jump in the finals. Teammate Erin Blackwell was sixth in the 800 (2:18.75).
Land O’Lakes’ Hallie Grimes placed third in the 400 (56.08).
Mitchell’s Emily Kerns was seventh (5:13.42) in the 1,600 and 11th in the 3,200 (11:43.00).