With “Have A Good Night!” already on the scoreboard, the final competitor at Monday’s Class 2A/1A indoor track and field Maryland state championships began her first event at 4:41 p.m. — five hours and 41 minutes after the meet began.
Oakdale High School senior Emma King wasted no more time making her mark.
King needed just one attempt to win her fourth state pole vaulting title and just three attempts to break her own indoor record for any classification. By the time the Emma King show ended, she had cleared 12 feet and six inches, breaking the record for any Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s girls state championship vault, indoor or outdoor.
A small but appreciative remaining crowd at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex gave a rousing ovation when King’s solo act concluded with three misses at 13 feet.
“The atmosphere here is definitely big, just because I don’t vault here all the time, so when I come here, it’s always for a big meet,” King said. “So, that definitely gets the adrenaline going, which I need at this point. I rely on my adrenaline.”
Though King had no choice but to steal the show thanks to every other event finishing before she began, the Oakdale senior handled being the center of attention liked the seasoned veteran she is.
Her first miss came at 12 feet and six inches.
“Tired?” an official asked.
“No, I’m good,” King replied cheerfully.
King also missed her second attempt at 12 feet and six inches. An official stood up and shook her hand, perhaps thinking she had missed three times and was eliminated. Called on his apparent mistake, he shrugged and found a good excuse for congratulating King after a miss.
“It was a great attempt,” he said.
Down to her potentially last try, King cleared 12-6, flipped over on her landing and sat up momentarily with a huge smile. Then she dropped on her back and kicked her feet and shook her arms in the air while screaming, “Yeeesss! Oh my gosh!”
“It’s a gut-wrenching jump, and to hit that, knowing that you should make it so there’s an extra pressure on yourself, I was just really proud of her,” Oakdale pole vault coach Chris Heinze said.
As the bar was moved up to 13 feet, an official told King, “We’re going to make you jump with the boys after this.”
King, who would have scored in the 2A boys field, said she appreciated the playful banter with the officials, whom she’s grown friendly with while competing in high-profile meets over the years.
Monday also featured two new challengers. King and sophomore teammate Jackie McNulty tied at the 2A West Region meet with vaults of 11 feet and six inches, and Middletown sophomore Erin Smith wasn’t far behind with an 11-foot vault.
“She clearly has the potential, and everybody sees it — should see it. Even if you’re not in the vaulting world, you see it,” King said of McNulty. “Just for her to come out and do that well, I don’t even think she realizes what a big deal that is.”
But King wasn’t ready to cede her crown just yet.
“It forced me to do well at practice this week,” King said. “I had to stay with my own thoughts, try not to think about it, which is harder than it sounds.”
Those three Frederick County vaulters were the last three remaining Monday, but in the end, it was King posing for pictures next to a sign denoting her new state record of 12-6.
Two other Frederick County athletes also won state titles Monday, each concentrating on a different element to pull through.
“I just have focused on technique,” said Walkersville junior Megan Mounts, who won the 2A girls shot put (39-4). “It’s a lot more technical than other events. Field events overall are just more technical.”
Middletown’s Zoe Wolfe came from behind to win the 2A girls 800-meter run in 2:21.48.
“The final stretch, I really put my mind to it,” Wolfe said. “It was like, I have to go now.
“I surprised myself when I ran that fast.”