Pole position: Vaulters seek podium placement at state track meet

Times file photo Marietta’s Baylee Brown competes in the pole vault during a high school track meet last season. She is scheduled to compete in the state meet this Saturday in Columbus.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Track and Field Championships are this weekend, and the Buckeye State’s best track and field athletes are going to be on full display. For area thinclads, getting to the big meet can be quite the accomplishment in a deep field of potential competitors.

Two local athletes look to fly up the leaderboard in their respective pole vault events.

In the Division I iteration of the event, Marietta’s Baylee Brown takes to the sky in hopes of separating herself from a crowded field. The Tiger senior’s road to Columbus was paved at the Region III meet in Pickerington. The crowd at Pickerington North High School witnessed a tight race for third in the pole vault, as Brown delivered and secured her spot in the state capitol.

Her 11-feet, 4-inch vault bested Western Central’s Gianna Brooks and Lancaster’s Sophia Rockwood (they both had a top vault of 11 feet). Now, Brown finds herself in the middle of the pack that is striving for greatness. Coach Mollie Schramm is sure that Brown is up for the tall task in Columbus.

“It’s something to you that proves that hard work pays off,” Schramm said of Brown qualifying in the pole vault. “She’s worked four years to get there. All year long, not just during track season. She vaults all year.”

RON JOHNSTON The Marietta Times Fort Frye’s Maddie Webb competes in the pole vault at the Pioneer Valley Conference Championships earlier this season in Beverly. She is scheduled to compete in the state meet this Friday in Columbus.

A group of 18 vaulters look to be called Ohio’s best in Division I, and Brown’s regional effort stacks up well with her competition. Her 11-4 height is in the lower half of the field, but not by much. Ten of her 17 opponents had a top regional attempt that was within five inches of her attempt. All it takes is one vault that could set her apart from everyone else.

In preparing for that pivotal moment, Brown is working on everything she needs to succeed. While a typical practice would see her work on improving in multiple events, she is now focused on making the most of her opportunity at the state meet.

“Right now, she’s just working on getting her steps down, staying on the pole longer and just working on those little fine tuning things,” Schramm said.

About a half hour away from Marietta is where the next local qualifier hails.

Fort Frye’s Maddie Webb is back for her third consecutive trip to Columbus. The junior led the Cadets in the pole vault and is also in the thick of a crowded state-qualifying field. A runner-up finish at the Division III, Region IX meet in Massillion helped punch her ticket to the meet. The 10-6 effort was only bested with a 10-9 vault from East Canton’s Alexis Pennell.

She out-vaulted nine of her 17 state competitors with their best regional efforts, and the experienced Cadet looks to be in the thick of things in Columbus.

“Maddie is really competitive,” first-year coach Linda Hart said. “She is really focused. Now that she’s a junior, she realizes if she’s going to seize the moment, that this would be the time to do it.”

Webb failed to finish in the top eight in her previous trips to the capitol city, but Hart stresses that Webb is more mature and “more aware of her goals” this time around. Previously, a foot injury limited Webb’s chance to put together a strong showing at the event, but Webb is now healthy and preparing for whatever comes her way. Getting up on the podium in her third try could really mean the third time’s a charm.