WEST LAFAYETTE — Ridgewood senior Chris Saylor has had his sights on the school’s pole vault record since he was in junior high.
Joe Fleming’s mark of 13-9 3/4 had been untouchable for 32 years.
But at only the second meet of the season March 27, Saylor finally reached his goal. He topped Fleming’s height with a leap of 13-10, setting a new personal and school record.
That same day, Fleming got the news almost immediately. He got two calls and a text telling him his record was finally broken.
Somebody better call Fleming again.
In the past two weeks, Saylor bested his own recently- claimed record twice. He cleared 14-0 feet at the Division III district meet in Newcomerstown May 18 and topped that with a 14-6 1/2 leap at the regional meet at Navarre Wednesday.
“I was really excited,” Saylor said. “To get a new PR (personal record) two meets in a row, I was ecstatic.”
On top of setting new personal and Ridgewood marks, Saylor’s performance also got him his second trip to state. He, along with fellow Ridgewood pole-vaulter Meghan Cunningham, will compete at Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens in the Division III state meet today.
Cunningham will compete at 1 p.m. and Saylor at 4 p.m.
But, only three weeks ago, accomplishing what he has over the past two weeks might have seemed impossible. At the Inter-Valley Conference meet May 11, Saylor failed to make height.
Instead of getting demoralized, Saylor used the failure as an incentive.
“I’ve used the IVC meet as motivation,” Saylor said. “I didn’t want that to happen again. (At regional), I thought, ‘this is not going to happen today.’ It has made me want to be better at district, then better at regional.”
After accomplishing just what he was aiming for, Saylor has the opportunity to earn All-Ohio for the second straight year. He finished seventh last year, with a jump of 13-0, but thinks he’ll need to do better than that to duplicate last year’s feat.
Entering Friday’s competition, Saylor’s 14-6 1/2 was the third best height of all regional qualifiers. Only Nathan Alexander of Old Fort and Tyler Wolfe of Columbus Grove had a better mark. Both cleared 15-0 at the Tiffin regional.
While clearing 14-0 would likely get him All-Ohio, Saylor wants to continue breaking his record.
“I want to get better every time,” Saylor said. “So if anyone else tries to break it, it will be ever farther out of reach.”
Since it took more than 30 years for anyone to break Fleming’s mark, Saylor wasn’t sure how long his could last. But he said with the increased participation and interest in the event, it may not take long.
“I have no idea. It’s hard to tell,” he said. “Pole vault has been gaining popularity as the years go on. Last year, 13-0 got me second at the regional meet. This year, it took 13-6 to get out. The competition is getting harder.”
For Cunningham, getting back to state is amazing, but going with her training partners made it even more special.
Cunningham competes and trains with Cydney McMillan of Newcomerstown and Roxy Dunn of Garaway. At the regional meet, Cunningham won with a leap of 10-6, Dunn was second at 10-3 and McMillan third at 10-0. All will compete today.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Cunningham said. “I knew coming into the regional meet I was in the top four. But it’s really exciting to go with my two friends.”
Cunningham just missed earning All-Ohio last year, finishing at 10-0 in ninth place, only six inches off eighth and All-Ohio.
This year, she wasn’t afraid to set the bar higher.
“My main goal starting out this year was going (to state) again,” Cunningham said. “I have high expectations. I was ninth last year. I want the podium this year.”
In her first trip to state a year ago, Cunningham said nerves played a factor in her performance. She thinks what she learned from last year will benefit her in her return trip.
“I know I’ll have some butterflies, but I’ve got to stay relaxed,” she said. “I can’t psych myself out.”
Getting back to state hasn’t been easy for Cunningham. Back issues forced her to withdraw from her running events prior to the IVC Meet. Cunningham found out as a freshman she had an extra vertebrae in her spine. Since then, she has just had to live with the pain.
“I’ve been taking it easy. I haven’t been running,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes it hurts, but only every now and again.”
On top of her personal goals at state, she also has college incentive.
Cunningham will attend Ashland University next year, where she will compete for the track team. If her heights are good enough, Ashland will give her a partial scholarship.
“If I can get a good height, maybe I can get a small scholarship,” she said. “They (Ashland coaches) look at how I’d place at the national meet. Right now, I’m in the top 10 or so.”
While next year is a priority, Cunningham is more focused on what she wants to achieve today, and she has the right mindset going in.
“I’m pretty confident,” she said. “Hopefully, I do my best.”