Posted: Friday, May 14th 2010 at 7:16am
Track: Malquist sets new state pole vault mark
By Morgan Lee Editor
Gainesville's Paul Malquist heads down the runway to clear 15-0 on his third attempt at the Georgia Olympics on Thursday in Jefferson.
JEFFERSON -- Paul Malquist felt his heart stop as he watched the bar bounce up and down but miraculously stay in place.
The difference between a new state record and a complete washout on Thursday proved about a half-inch.
Malquist nearly scratched on his third and final try at 15 feet -- his first height attempted in the Class AAA pole vault competition. Yet despite the scare, the Gainesville senior went on to set a new state record, clearing 16-8 to claim his second straight Class AAA and all-classifications pole vault crown at the Georgia Olympics in Jefferson.
The record-breaking vault eclipsed a mark set just two hours earlier when Jefferson’s Tyler Porter cleared 16-7.25 in the Class AA competition. And Malquist says the mark might have stayed with the Dragons’ standout if not for his own near miss on 15-0.
“I was worrying too much and thinking about everything way too much,” Malquist said. “Once I saw that bar nearly come down it focused my mind. It definitely gave me a boost.”
The Red Elephants star soared through his next attempt, clinching the Class AAA crown by clearing 15-6 on his first attempt -- Flowery Branch’s Austin Eckenroth came in second after equaling his personal best vault of 15-0 -- and then set about catching Porter.
“I wasn’t even worried about a state title coming in to today,” Malquist said. “I didn’t really even know I had won it. The record was my main goal.”
Moving the bar up to 16-8, Malquist screamed down the runway and cleared it in one attempt to clinch the record. And he very nearly made the new championship mark 17-0, attempting the height, which is the state record for any meet, and missing by a hair’s breadth on his third attempt.
“I was so close,” said the University of Georgia-bound standout, who still has a few prep-level meets remaining before heading to Athens.
“I can still beat 17-0 in a meet,” added Malquist, who will compete again on Memorial Day weekend at the Golden South Classic in Orlando, Fla.
Malquist's work in Jefferson is also far from over, as the senior will also attempt to qualify for four different championship races on Friday, competing in the 400 meters, 300 hurdles and Gainesville's 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. The top finishers in each event Friday will qualify for Saturday's championship races.
Despite watching his own record broken on Thursday, it was a stellar day for Porter, and the entire Dragons team. In all Jefferson High athletes claimed three gold medals as the Dragons stormed to 33 points and a day-one lead in Class AA.
“I kind of woke up feeling sore and was in a little bit of a panic,” Porter said. “But then I went to school and came out here and started jumping and hitting my marks, and everything was clicking.”
Indeed, Porter set the then-new mark on his third attempt, setting off cheers and applause across Jefferson’s Memorial Stadium.
“I was kind of in shock,” Porter said. “I was watching myself come down, almost like an out of body experience.”
Teammate Josh Kles enjoyed a similarly successful afternoon, sweeping the Class AA discus and shot put events. Kles claimed the discus with a toss of 158-2, clearing his old personal record by over five feet (153-0).
The senior struck again a couple of hours later, heaving the shot 56-2.5.
Flowery Branch also scored two state places on Thursday.
Otis Clark joined his teammate Eckenroth on the medal podium, claiming a bronze in the Class AAA high jump.
Clark cleared 6-8 on his first attempt but scratched all three attempts at 6-10, finishing behind event winner D.J. Mann of Carrollton -- who cleared 7-0 but missed on three straight attempts at 7-2.25 to set a new record. Riverwood’s Darius King was second.
While Clark was a little disappointed not to finish higher, Eckenroth was thrilled with his second-place finish, beating out St. Pius’ Nikita Kirillov by not scratching on any attempt until 15-6.
“I set my personal record again, which I set at region, so I’m pretty happy,” said Eckenroth, a sophomore. “I think I’ll be clearing 17 feet by the time I graduate.”
Also performing well on Thursday were East Hall’s Sterling Bailey, who tossed the shot put 48-4 to take sixth in Class AAA. East Jackson’s Nick Fulks also took fifth in the Class AA discus with a throw of 138-9.
Porter was also joined on the Class AA podium by teammate Sky Porter who finished sixth with a vault of 11-6.
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