WEST POINT — The pole sat 13 feet and four inches high, higher than any athlete not named Kaeli Thompson dared jump. Thompson’s head coach, Michael Potter, uses the popular coach line, “The sky is the limit,” when he talks about his most decorated athlete. But watching the 5-foot-11 1/2, two-time All-American launch herself into the air, turning and bending her body over the daunting horizontal barrier above, Potter’s hyperbole might not be far from the truth.
Warwick High School assistant coach Tim St. Lawrence started clapping slowly. He sped up the pace, and soon, nearly every parent and athlete at the Gillis Field House at West Point was clapping along. From the crowd emerged Thompson, sprinting down the lane and then planting the pole in the ground, but ultimately falling to the mat with the bar she’d been so determined to clear. She’d missed on two tries to best her personal record of 13 feet and three-and-a-half inches, which is already the fifth-best height in the country among high school girls.