COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even virtual locks aren’t guaranteed.
Bellevue senior Matt Rowland now knows that.
The two-time defending state champion in pole vault was nearly upset Friday in the Division II boys track and field state championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
With two competitors remaining, Rowland missed on his first two attempts with the bar at 15 feet, 0 inches, while his head-to-head opponent, Cambridge junior Eric Fox, had already cleared the 15–0 mark.
With only one more miss to spare, Rowland finally cleared the bar at 15–0.
Fox bowed out at the next increment, 15–3, giving Rowland his third straight state title.
Rowland explained his mindset approaching that deciding jump at 15–0.
“I knew I could do it,” he said. “I just had to get it through my head that it was going to happen. I got a little nervous, because I was thinking after two titles, to blow it on the third one …
“It was good for me because it was an eyeopener, because I could be beat here.”
Rowland, with his state championship Friday, became the first athlete in Bellevue High School history to win three individual state titles in any sport, and emerged from a tie with his cousin, Chad Beamer, as the only two-time state pole vault champions at Bellevue.
Rowland discussed the accomplishment of winning three state titles Friday.
“It’s very big,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of this when I was in fifth grade, when I first started, dreaming of breaking my cousin Chad’s two-time mark.
“It’s a huge accomplishment.”
His win Friday came in the final season in the career of Bellevue pole vault coach Shawn Beamer, who is Rowland’s uncle.
Rowland described Beamer’s role in his pole vaulting career.
“He’s definitely the biggest part of my success,” Rowland said. “He’s coached me since my summer going into fifth grade.”
Rowland owns the school, Northern Ohio League, Region 6 and Division II records for highest jumps in pole vault.
With the state title in hand Friday, after Fox was eliminated, Rowland went after one more record in his final high school career — the state meet record.
He made three attempts at 16–4.25, narrowly missing on his final two jumps.
“My third attempt was my best,” he said. “If I would have went to my bigger pole, I might have cleared it by a lot. I tried to play it safe and it backfired.
“The state title was the most important part.”
Rowland had to fend off a deeper field of competitors this year compared to last.
By comparison, in 2012, Rowland’s winning mark was 21 inches above the next highest finisher, and last year’s runner-up height would have placed 10th out of 16 competitors Friday.
Rowland commented on the field of competitors he faced Friday.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my years jumping here,” he said. “It was the best field I’ve ever jumped against.”
Rowland will go after another state championship Saturday.
At about 2:15 p.m. Friday, he qualified for today’s 110-meter hurdles final after finishing second in his heat and fourth overall in Friday’s preliminaries with a time of 14.56 seconds.
The top two finishers in each heat plus the next five fastest times regardless of heat advanced from Friday’s prelims to today’s final event.