When her moment came, Liz Wood was ready.
On her final attempt at clearing 10 feet, 6 inches at the 2A state meet, the Cuthbertson High junior cleared the jump to earn a personal-record and win a state title – and she tied the 2A state record.
Wood, 17, says she had never even cleared 10-6 in practice. Her previous best had been 10-3, coming when she won the Rocky River Conference title on April 24.
“I worked so hard for that moment, so it was an amazing feeling to win it,” Wood said.
She finished as 2A state runner-up in 2012.
“I was so proud. And to be able to get my best vault ever and clear 10-6 at states makes it even better,” she said.
Wood’s state championship performance capped a memorable final month. She also won pole vault titles at the RRC championships and the Union County Championships.
The only meet she didn’t win in April or May was at the 2A Midwest Regional, when her Cuthbertson teammate, classmate and good friend, Ashley Terkeurst, vaulted 10 feet, while Wood cleared 9-6.
For most of the season, Terkeurst and a third Cuthbertson vaulter, Haley Thoms, were each other’s best competition.
In fact, the trio took first, second and third in the Union County Championships, RRC championships and 2A Midwest Regional. While Wood claimed the 2A state title, Terkeurst wasn’t far behind, finishing third. Toms finished fourth at states.
The trio was a big part of Cuthbertson girls’ team that won the 2A Midwest Regional and finished third in the state.
“Most of the time, Liz, Ashley and Haley are each other’s best competition,” Cuthbertson pole vaulter coach Keith Wood, also Liz’s father, said. “They really pushed each other all year long and are definitely better because of the competition just at practices.”
“Ashley and Haley are great teammates and friends,” Liz Wood said. “I feel we all are a lot better because of each other.”
After growing up as a gymnast, Wood first became interested in pole vaulting because of her father, who competed in the vault in high school and at Butler University in Indiana.
So after Wood was a Cavaliers football and basketball cheerleader her freshman year, she wanted something to do that spring. Keith Wood encouraged her to go out for track and try the pole vault.
“At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but my dad helped me out a lot,” Liz Wood said. “He’s taught me basically everything I know about vaulting. But we are always trying to learn more going to camps and trying to pick up little things.”
Wood proved to be a quick learner. She finished her freshman year with a bang by winning the RRC championships and placing second at the 2A Midwest Regional and fourth at the state tournament. Wood vaulted a personal-best 9-0 in her final meet, the 2A state meet, that season.
Wood progressively got better, consistently clearing 9-6 in her sophomore campaign – where she again won the conference title and the regional championship – before finishing as state runner-up. But she couldn’t clear 10 feet until this season.
Wood is going to train and work on her vault year-round, beginning this summer when she will compete with the Waxhaw Track Club, led by Marvin Ridge High coach Cameron Starr.
Wood hopes the year-round work will help her get some college pole vaulting looks, where schools like Charlotte, High Point and UNC Wilmington have shown some interest.
Wood says her ultimate goal right now is 12-feet.
“It’s exciting just to think that I might have a future in the sport,” Liz Wood said. “But for now, I want to work as hard as I can and be ready to be even better my senior year. You can always (vault) higher, and that is what motivates me every day.”
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