The Licking Heights junior cleared 13-feet-6 during the indoor season, but he never had been able to advance higher during the outdoor season. Time was running out, but he had some inspiration ahead of this past week’s Mid-State League-Cardinal Division meet.
Justice’s grandparents were visiting from Louisiana for Mother’s Day, and they were still in town for the first day of the meet, which took place May 14 at Heights. Justice put on a show for friends and family, breaking through his personal barrier.
“I thought, ‘I am going to give this jump my all,’” Justice said. “I went upside down as hard as I could and trusted everything on my pole, and before I knew it, I was turning over the bar. I knew I had it.”
Justice cleared 14-0 for the first time, and he just kept right on going. He cleared two more heights and finished at 14-7, leaving the MSL-Cardinal with the title and meet record.
“I had been waiting on that all year,” Justice said. “I got up and went nuts and was really happy.”
Justice’s title helped Heights to a runner-up team finish. The Hornets scored 119 points, trailing just Liberty Union’s 156.
After Justice cleared 14-0, he wanted to attempt 14-6, but it was suggested that he attempt 14-3 first. He cleared that mark on his first attempt, and he took a shot at 14-7 despite still working on his 14-foot pole.
Justice cleared 14-7 on his second attempt. It was a satisfying end to a long day, which began at 11-0. Typically, he would have passed to higher heights, but he first had to secure the league title.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Justice, of his 14-7 attempt. “I got really lucky. The bar jumped off the pegs and landed back on.”
Justice’s mark is the best in Licking County, and he enters the Division I district meet with one of the top marks in Central Ohio. Justice competes this afternoon at Hilliard Darby. The running finals will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The sky appears to be the limit. The day after his breakthrough, Justice used a longer pole at practice and cleared 15-0.
“I feel like I can improve again, and that is the great thing about it,” Justice said. “I hit a brick wall at 13-6, and then as soon as I hit that 14, I felt really good.”
Justice’s end goal is the state meet in June, and it now is within reach. He first will have to rise above the difficult competition at the district and regional meets.
“I really want to place at state,” Justice said. “If I make the podium, they will put (my photo) up in the school.”
On the track at the MSL-Cardinal meet, Heights won two relays and had a bevy of second-place finishes.