Jackie McNulty’s pole vault very much remains a work in progress, which is both exhilarating for her and demoralizing for those who have to compete against her.
At Saturday’s Don Boyer Invitational, the Oakdale junior put the new turn at the top of her vault to its first real test.
The slow arrival of spring weather limited what she was able to do in practice. Previously, she went over the bar the unconventional way, feet first with her back facing the ground, yet still managed to set a state record (12 feet, 7 inches) during the indoor season.
On Saturday, with a turn that is still far from polished, McNulty notched a new personal record (12-9) to win the girls pole vault at the ninth running of the Boyer Invitational.
That alone could have made her the star of the meet in the field events. Except McNulty also demolished her own meet record in the triple jump (37-9) by almost two feet and nearly set the meet record in winning the long jump (17 4 1/2), missing the mark by one inch.
If that wasn’t enough, she also qualified for the finals in the 200-meter dash but had to pull out of the race due to scheduling conflicts with her other events. Athletes are permitted four events per meet.
“She is just an incredible athlete,” Oakdale girls coach Chris Lewis said. “The thing is, she has so much potential still.”
Behind 30 points from McNulty’s victories, the Oakdale girls won the team championship for the second consecutive season.
The Bears tallied 81.5 points, 7.5 more than second-place Largo and 9.5 more than third-place Middletown.
McNulty, not surprisingly, was named the Outstanding Performer in the field for the girls meet, while Urbana senior Colin Sipe earned the same honor in the boys meet.
Sipe swept the shot put (51-8 1/4) and the discus (143-3) to help the Urbana boys finish as the top team among six Frederick County schools.
The Hawks finished fifth in the boys team standings with 47 points, 49 fewer than first-place Frederick Douglass.
“I have been coming to this meet for the last five years,” said Sipe, who won the discus for the first time at invitational, while defending his shot put crown.
“I came as an eighth grader and just watched and admired all of the great throwers. I didn’t think I’d ever be one of those guys. I guess you can say I feel like I am breathing rarefied air right now.”
McNulty nearly soared into rarefied air in the pole vault, falling one inch short of matching the meet record of 12-10, held by former teammate Emma King.
But after McNulty cleared 12-9 easily on her third attempt at the height, the bar was raised to 13 feet.
After running through the pit on a failed first attempt, she nearly cleared the height on her second and third tries before falling on top of the bar, which she had soared over by a decent margin.
“I was surprised about how much height I had,” McNulty said after watching video of her vaults in the immediate aftermath with her coach, Chris Heinze, on an iPad.
Now that the weather has warmed up, McNulty should be able to practice her vaults like she normally would, meaning her turns will get better. She’ll likely be challenging King’s school record of 13-3 in a matter of weeks.
Had she been competing in the boys pole vault at the Boyer Invitational, McNulty would have placed third.
“She’s ready for it now,” Heinze said. “It’s just a matter of getting a little more consistency.”
The other champion from Frederick County, aside from McNulty and Sipe, was the 3,200 relay team for the Oakdale boys.
The team of Josh Hindle, John Wiley, Patrick Boddicker and Evan Kowalk posted a winning time of 8 minutes, 14.48 seconds.
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