By Collin Brooks
Soaring to new heights are the hopes of many high school students in the area, but it is a goal that continues to be reached by a pair of Daniel Boone pole vaulters in senior Ryan Jacomet and sophomore Caitlin Cutshall.
Pole vaulting isn’t exactly a popular sport in the area, with only a handful of kids competing in the Tri-Cities. But the duo at Daniel Boone is having a banner year.
Jacomet set a personal best of 13-feet-6 two weekends ago at the Tri Cities Sports Relays in Kingsport and nabbed a third place finish in the TSSAA Sectional on Saturday to claim a spot in the state meet in Murfressboro. Cutshall set a personal best of 10 feet at the same meet two weeks ago and also secured a spot at the state meet with a second place finish in the sectionals.
Finishing just behind her at the sectional meet were Science Hill’s Meredith Fullbright and Julia Parr. The Lady Topper duo will also be traveling to Murfreesboro.
While the Daniel Boone duo might be sharing similar success, they have rather different backgrounds when it comes to their sport. Jacomet is a veteran, picking up the pole in the seventh grade after watching his brother, Brandon, compete when they lived in Ohio. He cleared the bar at 8-foot-6 by the 8th grade.
Cutshall is in her second year of the sport, but a background in gymnastics has helped her become a quick learner.
“They’re both really smart kids, they show up for practice and they really work hard,” said Daniel Boome pole vaulting coach, who competed as a decathlete at Sullivan Central, graduating in 1989. “We have a game plan that we try to stick to and so far it has been working for us.”
Glenn isn’t the only one coaching Cutshall as she says that watching and learning from Jacomet during practice has really paid off.
“He has coached me a lot through all of it and he is a big part of it,” she said. “He is kind of like the assistant coach and he is always helping me with my technique and he has definitely helped a lot.”
Their views about the fun of the sport are also similar.
“You just get to go up and land on a giant cushion,” Jacomet said through a smile. “I mean that was what first got me, and then I kept going higher and higher and I guess it’s the closest thing you can get to a free fall without a bungee or parachute.”
Cutshall shared the same opinion about the rush.
“You feel like you’re flying when you do it,” Caitlin said. “People think it is scary and you have a fear of it, but you never even know that you are that high. Then it is just excited and thrilling when you make it and start to free fall.”
While it may be all thrill going through the air, Cutshall said the lead-up isn’t quite as peaceful, as she gaits down the runway, gripping the pole and thinking about all the technique that she needs to perfect. She said that she tames that with an even louder voice of assurance in her head.
“I kind of have to yell at myself (in my head) a bit to distract myself,” she said through a smile.
While she may have been a natural, she said it isn’t quite second nature yet. She noticed that after taking a break over the summer and then picking the pole back up.
“You kind of stop during the summer and have a few breaks and then getting back on the pole, you’re like, ‘This is a little bit scary.’”
Jacomet is use to the flight over the bar even if he is reaching new heights. He has been able to hit his new personal best multiple times, but that only pushes him to go higher and higher. The senior said he has come close to clearing 14 feet in different meets.
Although he’ll need to get a bit higher to compete with some of the best pole vaulters in the state, they will all compete at the state meet which starts on Monday, May 22 and runs through Friday, May 26.
It is a family affair when it comes to pole vaulting, with other high school teams helping one another, whenever they need it.
“It’s really a family that shares a bond,” Glenn said about the pole vaulting community in Northeast Tennessee. “They share poles and if you’ve got that unique skill set to be a pole vaulter, there aren’t many people around that have that. And as coaches we understand that and we all appreciate one another.”
Daniel Boone also got a spectacular performance from Ben Varghese at the sectional meet, as he helped Zac Branham, Caleb Sells and Matt Huff win the 4×800 relay with a time of 8:01.95.
Varghese also took home first place in the 1600-meter (4:23.26), topping Science Hill’s Alex Crigger by about six seconds. In the 3200 race, he was able to finish in a time of 9:25.49, which was 15 seconds in front of his nearest competitor. Crigger qualified in the state meet in the 800 and with the 4×400 relay team of Trey Garland, Nate Jackson and Tate Overbay who finished in fourth place with a time of 3:27.20. The team of Garland, Overbay, Caleb Duncan and TJ Patton won first place in the 4×100.
Daniel Boone’s Noah Shelton brought home a fourth place finish in the high jump. It will be his second consecutive year of competing at the state tournament. The Lady Blazers will be represented by Cutshall and Maria Chellah, who was the runner-up in the 400.
For the Lady Toppers, Julia Simpson finished second in the girls’ 3200 and Katy Neubert brought home fourth place in the 400. She also teamed up with Paige Carlsen, Casey Miller and Gabrielle Mardis in the 4×800 relay to claim third place.
David Crockett had two girls qualify for the state meet with Addisyn Rowe taking home the sectional title in the high jump and Daniela Palomino bringing home fourth place in the discus throw.
The state meet starts on Monday, May 22 and runs through Friday, May 26.