HAMPTON — All eyes were on the competitors in the Group 5A boys pole vault on Friday afternoon at Boo Williams Sportsplex. It was the only thing happening at that point in the day.
But the intimate environment only helped Atlee junior Bryce Simpson, who won the Group 5A state indoor track and field title after clearing 14 feet.
“It eases the pressure,” Simpson said. “All the other noise kind of distracts you. So it was nice to be the only thing going on. But for this to be my first state title is an honor.”
Simpson and teammate Henry Buyas were the only vaulters left once the bar was raised to 13-6.
Simpson entered with a season-best clearance of 14-6 and had a distinct advantage over Buyas, who hadn’t cleared a height higher than 12-3 until Friday.
Buyas knocked the bar off on his first attempt, which left the door open for Simpson on his first try and he capitalized.
The small crowd watched as Buyas failed to clear the height twice more, crowning Simpson as the state champ.
“I have a seasonal PR, but I’m a little disappointed,” Buyas said. “I definitely think I could have done better.”
Simpson wasn’t done, however. The bar was raised to 14-0, and he cleared it with relative ease on his second attempt. Foregoing an attempt to tie his season best at 14-6, Simpson and coach Ken McDaniel decided to attempt 15-0.
On the first attempt, Simpson didn’t get over the bar. The second and third attempts were closer, but the bar fell to the mat along with him. Fourteen feet would be the result.
“I almost got it,” he said. “I need to work on my run and approach and finding which pole works best for me. But we’ll go for it again at (New Balance) Nationals when we get to New York in two weeks.”
Prince George senior John Warren completed a sweep of the horizontal jumps when he leapt 23-0 to win the 5A long jump championship.
Warren won the triple jump title Thursday with a mark of 48-11.
Deep Run won the 3,200 relay title with a time of 8:02.81.
Highland Springs leads the boys standings entering today’s final day of competition.
Patrick Henry senior Shania Williams claimed her first indoor state title in the shot put earlier in the day. Williams, a Radford signee, was runner-up in the Group AAA meet last season, but won the Group AAA outdoor title in June.
Williams battled the norovirus leading up to the competition, but had treated herself with rest and proper nutrition before Friday’s competition.
Still, she was able to come up with the longest throw of the eight finalists. On her second throw in finals, she produced a mark of 40-8 ¾ , nearly three feet further than runner-up Nicolette Brown of Kempsville.
“It feels really good to win a first indoor state title,” Williams said.
Bria Anderson of Mills Godwin won the 5A girls triple jump with a mark of 18-11 ½ . The Eagles also won the 3,200 relay with a time of 9:28.33.
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