Jake Wallenfang looked up and let out a huge roar when he realized the bar was still in place.
The Green Bay Preble senior cleared 16 feet in the pole vault at a WIAA Division 1 track and field regional at Gauthier Family Stadium on Monday, becoming the fourth individual in state history to reach the height and first in 29 years.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Wallenfang, who came into the meet with a school record of 15-6 in the event.
“I didn’t know if I made it or not because I nicked it on top. I made it down and just had to stare at it for a second. It wasn’t moving, and I was just filled with emotion.”
Wallenfang’s vault was the highest in the state since Green Bay Southwest’s Andy Lindberg cleared 15-10 in 2006.
What made it more impressive was Wallenfang reached 16 feet about 15 minutes after winning the 100-meter finals. He also had won preliminaries in the 100 and 200 within an hour of reaching 16 feet, which was followed by him anchoring the winning 400 relay team and winning the 200 finals.
It was a fitting performance for Wallenfang in his last home meet, especially since it came two days after the track was renamed for the late Jack Drankoff, who was a longtime coach at Preble who died of cancer last year.
“To stay that focused for that period of time, it’s pretty amazing,” Preble boys coach Nick Marcelle said of Wallenfang.
“He got a new pole recently, and I watched him in practice and it wasn’t pretty. But I think he figured it out today.”
Given that regionals featured preliminaries for the sprints and sectionals is on Thursday, it was a bit of a surprise that Wallenfang would go for heights on Monday.
“When he gets in the zone, there is no stopping him,” Preble pole vault coach Paul Donart said. “I can’t tell you how I excited I am for him. I’ve been doing this 24 years and I haven’t seen anybody with his talents.”
Having reached the height for his preseason goal, Wallenfang is setting his sites on breaking the WIAA state meet record, which is 15-8. Following Monday, he feels optimistic it can be done while still running fast times in the 400 relay, 100 and 200.
“I was really stressed out coming into today,” Wallenfang said. “Last year I was in the same four events and was beat tired. I went 12-6 and couldn’t even make 13 feet. That really stressed me out because I knew state would kind of be the same thing. This is definitely a good indicator of what is to come.
“It’s my greatest accomplishment in track so far, but just so far. I’m not satisfied yet.”