Maybe it was the atmosphere in Cessna Stadium in Wichita as thousands of people were clapping with all eyes affixed on her as she gathered her thoughts on the pole vault runway.
Maybe it was simply knowing she might never again compete in the pole vault, an event she took up in seventh grade.
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Whatever the case, Gardner Edgerton High School senior Cassie Wait put on a show last Friday in winning the Kansas 6A girls pole vault. She won the event on her first attempt after entering the competition at 11 feet, 6 inches.
Runner-up Megan Vanderpool, a Shawnee Mission West senior, had cleared 10-6, so Wait’s only true competition was her own state-meet record of 12-7 1/2, which she set a year earlier in an another gold-medal performance.
But after breezing over the bar at 12-8, Wait went for a personal record, hoping to become the first vaulter in state-meet history to top 13 feet, which she did on her third attempt at 13-2.
“Really, a PR, 13-2, was ultimately the goal,” Wait said. “To step up and hit that one more bar, that’s always the ultimate goal — competing against yourself regardless of whatever place you get.”
Wait, who was The Star’s All-Metro volleyball player of the year, is headed to the University of Kansas as a defensive specialist in the fall.
She hopes her vaulting career is completely finished, but at least she went out on top if it is.
“If there’s any way to make it work, I definitely want to try to (pole vault in college), even if it’s after my four years playing volleyball,” Wait said. “I love it so much. If I don’t get to do it, it’s been a blessing when I’ve gotten to do it, but if I can do it again I’d love to.”
Brigham also sets state-meet record
Mill Valley senior Emily Brigham also went out in style, winning the Class 5A girls pole vault by clearing 12 feet, 8 inches — a state-meet record for 5A.
She also finished second in the long jump at 18 feet, 8 inches, finishing three-fourths of an inch behind Emporia senior Oasis Hernandez.
“Winning the pole vault helped, because I really wanted that,” Brigham said. “I had a good four years. I don’t think words can describe how happy I was with winning the pole vault.”
Brigham owns the best pole vault in Kansas girls high school history — 13-7, a mark she set last summer — but until lastFriday she had yet to win a state gold.
Smith wins shot put
Sitting in third place entering the Class 6A girls shot put final last Friday, Blue Valley North senior Jasmine Smith had a quick chat with herself.
“I had a rough start, but once I got into finals I just told myself to calm down and trust my training,” she said.
Whatever she said to herself worked as Smith won with a put of 39 feet, 10 1/4 inches on her fifth effort.
“I just relaxed — at least until the last throw when I got a little overexcited,” Smith said. “But I’ve been serious about track my entire life. I started when I was 5, and it’s moments like these, when you’re on top of the podium, that you’ve been working for your entire life.”
She also finished third in the discus with a throw of 132 feet, 5 inches.
Vickers blazes to 400 crown
Shawnee Mission East senior Emma Vickers wasn’t convinced she could win the 6A girls 400 meters, but her family and coaches knew she was capable.
Buoyed by that support, Vickers — who as a junior failed to make the final and finished 11th at state — dusted the field last Saturday and struck gold in 56.83 seconds, defeating runner-up Alyxis Bowens of Derby by 1.34 seconds.
“I was definitely nervous, but I put in a ton of training and a ton of time,” Vickers said. “I have such a supportive family and such supportive coaches who told me I could do it, so I believed.”
Gueldner is golden
Entering her first high school track season, Olathe Northwest freshman Cameron Gueldner never expected to be standing atop the podium on Memorial Day weekend in Wichita.
Of course, that’s exactly where she stood after winning the 3,200 meters last Friday in 11 minutes,17.63 seconds, which was nearly five seconds better than runner-up Kathryn Doll, a sophomore from Garden City.
“In the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have expected, but after I got through the KU Relays, that built my confidence up more,” said Gueldner, who also finished third Saturday in the 1,600. “I was hoping to take home the gold medal.”