JACKSONVILLE — On a searing afternoon at the University of North Florida, the bar again was raised in the Bales inner-family pole vault feud.
A year after A.J. Bales won the Class 3A state title for Mitchell with a 14-foot, 9-inch effort, 17-year-old sibling Evan did him a bit better — sort of. Matching his career best with a 15-foot effort, the River Ridge junior placed third at Friday’s 3A meet.
“He’s really my main motivation,” Evan said of his brother, a freshman at Butler Community College in Kansas. “Me and him are matching heights right now. He’s up to 15-3 and I’m just pushing 15.”
Bales was among a trio of local top-three finishers Friday at Hodges Stadium. As the pole vault competition proceeded, Springstead sophomore Bobby Harris was hundred yards away, getting vertical with equal proficiency.
A lanky (5-foot-10, 145 pounds) Eagles basketball player, Harris recorded a 6-4 effort in the high jump to finish in a tie for second. He nearly matched his personal-best of 6-6, which would’ve tied for the title, but his feet nicked the bar on his descent on both tries.
“Just going to states, period, it’s pretty good,” Harris said. “I’m only a sophomore so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but second, that means the world to me. I’m going to strive for first next year and do better.”
While Bales was jumping and Harris was vaulting, slender Wiregrass Ranch junior Nikita Shah was taking the day’s most profound leap — of faith. A qualifier in the 1,600 meters, she opted to drop out of that race to focus on the 3,200.
The result: a third-place finish, behind only a pair of elite senior runners, in 10:49.62. Tallahassee Chiles’ Lily Williams, who won the day’s three longest girls distance races, prevailed in 10:30.62.
“I ran my race. I ran as hard as I could,” Shah said. “I wanted to go after No. 1. I didn’t get No. 1 but I’m okay with that because I did really well for me.”
Elsewhere, Land O’Lakes sophomore Hallie Grimes eclipsed her own school record in the prelims of the 400 (56.87 seconds) then placed sixth in the final (56.93).
Wiregrass Ranch junior Alisha Henry, acknowledging she “let the nerves get to me” in her state meet debut, placed sixth in the girls pole vault (10-6).
By Joey Knight
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