Something unexpected, and wonderful and problematic, happened to Springfield Township’s Chris Stone at the PIAA state track and field championships last spring.
Stone was participating in the Class AA pole vault as a sophomore, despite less than two months’ experience in the event, and cleared a height as high as he had reached before, and then one even higher than that.
Suddenly, he was at a new level, literally and figuratively. And he realized he needed a sturdier pole, because somehow during the event, just like that, he had outgrown his.
West Middlesex senior Luke Patten, the only other vaulter left in the competition, let Stone use one of his poles. Stone then set another personal record, and another. He and Patten each cleared 14 feet, 6 inches, but Patten won the gold medal and Stone took silver because Patten had fewer misses.
“He actually was using the pole that I needed. He let me borrow it,” Stone said. “I probably would have felt bad if I beat him, a little bit, just because he was a senior and he let me use his pole. But it worked out well.”
Success started to snowball for Stone in track and field last spring. He also placed second in the high jump at the state meet (6-8) – losing out again on misses – and eighth in the javelin (165-11). He followed that up by winning both the high jump (6-8) and the pole (15-0) at the indoor state championships on March 2.
This outdoor season, he would like to qualify for the state meet in those three events and the long jump.
Not surprising given his versatility, Stone wants to be a decathlete.
“In CYO in grade school, I was always running around doing four or five events, even though you were only allowed to do three. My dad would always stick me in a couple of running events,” Stone said. “So I always kind of liked doing a lot of events.”
Stone has been doing the high jump since he started in track in CYO. He began throwing the javelin as a freshman in the outdoor season and won the District 1 championship in only his third meet in the event. He picked up the pole vault last April, after wandering over to the pit during a practice, and considers it his favorite event.
Stone entered last May’s state meet tied for the ninth-best seeding mark in the pole, at 13 feet, his personal record at the time. He cleared 12-6, 13-0, and 13-6 and missed his first shot at 14 feet.
That’s when he replaced his 15-foot pole rated for 165 pounds with Patten’s 15-footer rated for 170 pounds.
“Last year, outdoor, as a sophomore, around districts and my leagues is when I really started coming on strong,” Stone said. “I improved a ton just in those last couple of weeks.”
Stone plans to spend the first month of this season working on sprints and hurdles. The decathlon also includes the shot put, discus, and 1,500 meters.
The junior divides his practice time between Springfield, for sprints and hurdles, and La Salle High, less than two miles away, where he works with Explorers jumps coach Brian Stone, his father, on the high jump, pole vault, and long jump.
Brian Stone has been coaching his son since Chris started in track.
“My dad taught me the right form when I was real young, so I’d go to these meets when I was in like fourth grade and all these kids would ask me, how do I do this, how do I do that?” Chris Stone recalled. “I wasn’t jumping that much farther, but my form was so much better than theirs.”
Chris Stone has a special javelin coach, too – his uncle Chris Stone, former record-breaking javelin thrower at Drexel.
Brian Stone says the javelin is his son’s best event, and part of the reason he thinks Chris, who also has quarterbacked the Springfield football team, will succeed in the decathlon.
The junior has thrown the javelin 187-7, a school record, and Brian Stone expects him to surpass 200 feet this year.
“He has a cannon for an arm,” Brian Stone said.
The javelin, high jump, and pole vault are among the hardest to conquer of the decathlon’s 10 events, and Chris Stone has done well at all three.
“I love that this year he’s kind of taken a real serious interest in ‘what do I got to do,’ ” Brian Stone said. “And it’s showing. He really showed up this indoor season, and he’s taking it serious, and I think that’s going to be a big thing for him going into next year.”
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