UH's Smith vaults into Spring Fling

Jeff Birchfield • May 16, 2014 at 12:33 AM

KNOXVILLE -- University High’s Jarod Smith soared above the competition at Thursday’s Class A/AA sectional meet, while Elizabethton’s Katie May used the occasion to qualify for two events at next week’s state championships.

Following in the footsteps of two-time state champion Devon Wade, Smith cleared 12-feet to win the boys’ pole vault at Christian Academy of Knoxville. His Junior Bucs teammate, Salter Blowers, was second at 11 feet and six inches.

Smith wasn’t the only local champion as May won the girls’ triple jump with a distance of 34 feet and 6 3/4 inches. Smith’s 12-feet didn’t come close to his qualifying mark, which was a foot higher, but that was secondary to two UH vaulters qualifying for state.

“The pole vault is something I really like to do and it’s more fun having my teammate take second place,” Smith said. “I would have liked to have vaulted higher, but the weather was hard.It’s as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. In pole vaulting, you have to be headstrong.”

While Smith didn’t match his personal best, Blowers clearing 11-6 was over four feet higher than where he started the season.

“I was not expecting that,” Blowers said. “I did terrible at the beginning of the year. I no-heighted twice and was afraid I wouldn’t even qualify for sectionals. Then I started listening to my coach and it was a huge deal for me. I started jumping double-digit numbers consistently and now I’m going to Murfreesboro. That’s awesome, amazing to me. The first time I vaulted it was like seven-feet and now I’m 11-6. That’s amazing.”

Elizabethton’s May won the triple jump by over two feet over runner-up Makenna Smith of Sullivan North. Grace Owen of University High was third at 29-09 1/4.

May qualified for a second event as the lead on the 4x400 relay team which included Kyra McCrary, Heather Feuchtenberger and Kaitlyn Matheson. They ran a 4:20:90 to finish behind the team from host CAK.

“The triple jump, I had a p.r. for the season and that was unexpected,” May said. “The 4x400, Mandy Largent got hurt and we had to find a replacement really fast. Kaitlyn Matheson really stepped up to the plate. It’s definitely exciting to go back to Murfreesboro. It’s the biggest track and the best competition that we see all year.”

The Cyclones had another qualifier with Emily Schubert, whose heave of 106-11 ranked second in the discus. Schubert led the event by five feet until Kaci Ray of West Greene beat her on a final throw.

Elizabethton also has two still in the running for state at-large bids with the results to be posted later today.

Ethan Thomas went 20-09 in the boys’ long jump to place third, and he finished fourth in the 400. The girls’ 4x800 team of Feuchtenberger, Abbi Pierce, Maci Shell and Keylon is another strong contender for an at-large bid after running a 10:17 to finish third.

“Our girls 4x800 put up a really solid time,” Elizabethton coach Aaron Wood said. “I really excited to see if that makes it. I think we have a really good shot. The main thing is going forward from three years ago to where we are now, where going to state is an expectation. The dynamic of the team has changed so much. Their expectations are so much higher and that’s exciting.”

Happy Valley will be represented in the girls’ pole vault by Kaitlyn Simerly who qualified for the state meet for a second consecutive year. Simerly cleared 7-feet-6 and finished second to Corinna Cicci of Red Bank in a jump off.

With the event taking place in wet and windy conditions, it was an accomplishment to clear the bar at all.

“It was pretty bad,” Simerly said. “They were taking cups and scooping water out of the pit. Someone said they had an indoor mat, so I was like, ‘Why don’t we just go inside?’ But, everybody had to stick it out. To make it back to state, it means a lot. I’m so excited. It’s my senior year and I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish. I’m ready to go.”

A major goal for Simerly is improving on her state meet performance from a year ago when she admitted to being a bundle of nerves.

“When it comes around to state, my nerves are everywhere,” Simerly said. “I like this meet, but at the state, my nerves get out there pretty bad.”

Alex Edwards of Unicoi County finished third in the event at 7-feet, while Happy Valley’s Timothy Morris was third in the boys’ competition, reaching 10-feet.

Unicoi County had eighth athletes competing with Edwards and C.J. Wells, who was fourth in the boys’ 110 hurdles, the top finishers. Like Edwards, Morris and many of the others, Wells will check later today to see if his time of 16.40 seconds qualifies for the state meet.

Overall, Blue Devils coach Paul Shelton was pleased with his team’s showing.

“We had 25 kids total, boys and girls, on our squad,” Shelton said. “To bring that many kids down here, especially with a young group, that was exciting. I was thinking about it, six of them return, so we’re only losing two seniors from the whole group. We’re really proud of the way they worked and the way they finished.”

Johnson County was represented by Andy Rosardo who placed eighth in the boys’ triple jump. Another Longhorn athlete, J.R. Speed, missed the event due to a non-track related injury suffered earlier in the week.

The girls’ state meet is scheduled for next Thursday at Middle Tennessee State University with the boys’ championships a day later.

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