Pole vaulter leads Bulls to state meet

On a near 90-degree day, not many athletes are still preparing for events on a Thursday evening as only top competitors training for state remain.

That’s where you’ll find Wiregrass Ranch pole vaulter Alisha Henry, practicing and perfecting any and every technique she has at her disposal. She’ll need every bit of her ability this afternoon at the University of North Florida, as Henry will be competing against some of the best in the Class 3A state meet.

The interesting thing, though, is Henry almost didn’t get today’s opportunity without the blessing of being welcomed back onto the team by Bulls coach Don Howard.

Last season, Henry was on the team as a distance runner but after one meet was not feeling the role of a runner so much and left the team. Howard and Henry discussed the possibility of the then-sophomore competing in one single field event and the Bulls coach recommended pole vaulting.

“I wouldn’t even have this opportunity at states without coach Howard allowing me back onto the team,” Henry said. “Last year, coach really pushed me on running and I did one event last year, one race and that was it. Coach then told me to go ahead and try pole vault if I wasn’t going to run.”

The junior has gone from almost extinct from the track and field scene to becoming a favorite to win the pole vault state championship almost the entire season. Henry’s performance last week at region showed once again why she’s one of the tops in the state. She took second place, behind Lecanto’s Anna Heinzman, in the Class 3A-Region 2 meet.

Both Heinzman and Henry share the same pole vaulting coach in Florida Pole Vault Academy’s Bob Leidel, who was an assistant coach at Wiregrass Ranch last season.

Howard believes that Henry has an excellent shot at finishing in the top three, but the goal at hand for all those that know Henry is claiming gold in Jacksonville.

“The thing that I had to decide as a coach last year was deciding that I was OK with her doing just one event,” Howard said. “Me and (Henry) had a discussion about her trying pole vaulting and obviously from there the results have been positive for her and the team.

The most important thing for Alisha from my prospective, and I’m not an expert on pole vaulting, but she’ll need to have clean vaults to start off and that’ll put pressure on the other vaulters.”


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Wiregrass Ranch High School

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