Jackie Barnes sat on the ground under a small blue tent and squeezed a plastic water bottle, the crackling replacing the silence as she prepared for another pole vault attempt.
Barnes, a Beaufort High School sophomore, wanted to clear 13 feet and reclaim the national record for her grade level, which had moved to 12 feet, 10 inches since she first cleared 12-9 in Jacksonville, Fla., in March.
She nearly cleared 13 feet her first attempt Saturday at the Beaufort Track Classic at Beaufort High, but just caught the bar with her abdomen and knocked it loose. After moving the standards — the posts that support the bar — 2 inches closer, she tried again, this time kicking the bar to the track.
Frustrated, Barnes rested with her bottle, taking advantage of the five minutes allowed the final vaulter between attempts. Her final attempt, too, was just off. Barnes settled for 12 feet, 6 inches to win and tie a meet record as she prepared to go to the prestigious Taco Bell Invitational the following weekend in Columbia.
Barnes’ win was among several strong efforts for the Beaufort High girls, who won the meet with 108 points, 25 ahead of second-place Battery Creek. The Beaufort High boys made it a sweep for the hosts, finishing with 99.33 points to edge Hilton Head Island High School, which finished with 92.
Twenty-one teams registered for the Beaufort Track Classic, including all five Beaufort County high schools and Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School.
The Hilton Head High girls 4×800-meter relay team of Rachel Friend, Christina Mason, Rebeka Parent and Carley McGlinn set a meet record with a time of 10 minutes, 12 seconds. McGlinn ran a personal-best 2:27 split to help lead the Seahawks.
The Seahawks’ relay team was running just its second meet together. Parent splits time with the soccer team, and Friend played basketball during Hilton Head High’s run to the third round of the playoffs.
“They’re right where they should be this time of year,” Hilton Head High coach Blake Bishop said.
Among the area winners was Beaufort High’s BreAnna Heyward-White, who won the 100-meter dash, the 200 and the 400 to pile up 30 points for the Eagles. She was also part of the Eagles’ winning 4×400-meter relay, and was named the meet’s MVP of the girls track events.
Battery Creek’s Quamecha Morrison won the high jump and 100-meter hurdles.
Morrison, who won the Class 2-A title in high jump as a sophomore, jumped 5 feet, 2 inches to win Saturday. She plans to need 5-6 to repeat at state, although 5 feet won in 2013.
Beaufort High’s Michael Dickson broke a school record in winning the 110-meter hurdles, finishing in 14.2 seconds. He also won the 400-meter hurdles, finishing in 59.13 to edge Ridgeland-Hardeeville’s Brandon Lawyer.
Dickson — the boys MVP on the track — said he knew from online research his times were much better than the other runners competing Saturday, that he was focused only on his time.
“That’s all I think about, is just going harder,” he said.
Barnes has only been vaulting a little more than a year.
She was recruited by Eagles coach Herbert Glaze after quitting gymnastics after 10 years. Barnes and former Beaufort High vaulter Madeline Aune were on the same gymnastics team.
Glaze knew the potential was there. He directed Barnes to coach Rusty Shealy in Columbia.
Shealy and Barnes work together twice a week. The progress has been fast.
Barnes said gymnastics gave her the body control needed to successfully navigate the bar.
Entering Taco Bell, she hopes to clear 13 feet and take back the national record. Last year at the same meet, she cleared 9 feet, 6 inches.
She uses her knowledge from Shealy to try to help her fellow vaulters. After the girls pole vault ended, as Barnes’ mother, Mandy, was explaining her daughter’s relationship with Aune, Jackie offered tips to one of the boys competitors.
“I think your grip’s too high,” she said. “Maybe move your step back a little bit if you’re not going to lower your grip.”
When Allendale-Fairfax vaulter Matthew Allen first tried the event at a meet in Columbia earlier this season, someone directed him to Shealy and after the meet, Barnes offered to help.
Allen cleared 9 feet, 6 inches Saturday and hopes to finish his senior season at 14 feet.
Barnes said she hopes to reach the Olympics. She said she is ahead of where another of Shealy’s students, University of Arkansas vaulter Sandi Morris, was as a sophomore.
“It’s likely, if I keep working,” she said. “Which I will, by the way.”
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
Beaufort Track Classic
Final team results
Beaufort High 99.33
Hilton Head High 92
Richmond Hill 63
Lower Richland 59.5
New Hampstead 57
Wade Hampton 56.5
Whale Branch 36
Battery Creek 27
Calhoun County 24
Savannah Arts Academy 7
Hilton Head Prep 3
Beaufort High 108
Battery Creek 83
Colleton County 64.5
Hilton Head High 62
Wade Hampton 58
Whale Branch 41
Richmond Hill 41
New Hampstead 40
Lower Richland 23
HV Jenkins 6
Savannah Arts Academy 4
Baptist Hill 4
St. Vincent’s Academy 1
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