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LOUISVILLE – B.J. Robinson was so close.
So close to a state pole vault championship that he could feel it.
The record will show that the Anderson County senior could not clear 14 feet, finishing second to Henderson County’s Evan Pitt in the pole vault at the state high school track meet at Cardinal Park on the campus of the University of Louisville. That record will tell that Robinson only topped out at 13-06 for the highest Anderson track finish at the state in over a decade.
But the record can’t begin to chronicle the drama that was unfolding at the vaulting pit at the north end of the Cardinal Park track.
Robinson and Pitt staged a monumental battle. Nine vaulters were still in the running at 12-feet, including Anderson’s other entry, Ben Joseph. Joseph went out after clearing 12, a personal record. After 13, only Robinson and Pitt were still vaulting. They both missed once at 13-06 before recovering to go on. On one of Robinson’s misses at 14, he just nicked the bar before it came crashing down.
Robinson’s disappointment was evident before he hit the pad on his final miss. He had cleard 14 less than two weeks earlier in the Central Kentucky Conference meet. “I wanted first,” Robinson said. “I was thinking, ‘It’s over.’”
Anderson coach Travis Gay, looking on from beyond a fence separating the competitiors from spectators, was thinking that he might be watching the first Anderson state champ in his four-year tenure leading the program. “I was hoping,” he smiled.
“I thought he was going to win it all,” said Joseph, who was giving Robinson some tips between vaults. “I was coaching him some on what was hitting and what was missing.”
But Robinson got off to a rough start, missing his first attempt at several heights before moving on.
“I couldn’t get loose,” said Robinson, who is still recovering from February knee surgery.
Robinson’s finish was the best for an Anderson team that had four medalists, the most for an Anderson team again in over 15 years. Jordan Sloan placed fifth in the high jump, while Joseph was seventh in the pole vault and Cody Dixon was also in the top eight sprinters in the 100-meter dash.
Joseph stayed in contention, and had a big celebration when he cleared 12 feet, but that was as high as he could go. “I couldn’t believe it at first,” Joseph said of his personal best. “I thought I vaulted pretty good.”
It was a good day for the Anderson program, which had an unusual double entry in the same event. “We were the only school with two vaulters,” Gay noted. There were some dual entries in Class A and 2A.
In the high jump, Sloan improved his state placing from last year by one spot, but the junior was quick to point out, “Fifth is not bad, but it was not what I wanted.” Sloan tied with Kevin Ross of Covington Scott at 6-02.
Mr. Basketball and Kentucky signee Jon Hood, of Madisonville, took the championship with a jump of 6-06, the same height of Sloan’s best this year.
“It was just one of those things that happens,” Sloan said of going out before he wanted.
Sloan, who has qualified for the state three times, should be one of the favorites in the event next year as the four that placed ahead of him are all seniors. “That will motivate me,” he said.
Dixon placed well in an event loaded with ridiculous speed. He was less than three-tenths of a second behind the winner, Desmond Suter of Bryan Station, but Dixon’s 11.10 time was only good enough for seventh place. He was a tenth of a second from fourth place.
Dixon was just out of the medals when he came in 10th in the 200-meter dash.
“The 100 was nice,” he said, “I ran pretty good.”
In the 200, Dixon did not care for being seeded on the far inside lane, which had a metal barrier on the edge.
“He ran real well,” Gay said. “Just getting here in the sprints. There were, what, six, from our region that made it. That shows you just how tough our region is.”
Normally, just two from a region advance, but six from Region 6 met the automatic qualifying standard in either the 100 or 200.
In all, Anderson took 15 kids to compete in 12 events at the state. Katie Gustafson had qualified with her teammates in the girls’ 4x800-meter relay, but did not run at the state. “She is part of that team,” Gay said.
Girls’ pole vaulter Chelsea Payne had qualified but did not compete. Gay declined to elaborate.
Sprinter Madison Carter turned in a career-best in the 400-meters but it was only good enough for 11th. She was also part of the 4x800 relay team along with Courtney Drury, Maggie Conley and Ariel Conrad, which finished 18th.
Hannah Smith went over 31 feet in the triple jump but did not qualify for the final round.
Anderson’s discus throwers and hurdlers had a bit of tough luck.
In the discus, competitors had to use a disc provided by the KHSAA. John Updike, one of the state’s best all season, and Anna Sundean both finished 18th.
Shavon Russell was 20th in the girls’ 100-meter hurdles, but Megan Melanson’s 14th place finish might have been the result of not cleanly clearing her first hurdle.
“You miss one and it can mess up your entire race,” Gay said.
Still, Anderson was ecstatic about having the most state qualifiers since the days when hall of fame coach Randy Crist headed the program from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. The Bearcats had doubled their number of qualifiers every year in Gay’s tenure until this year, when they tripled their state entrants from last year.
“We set the bar a little higher every year,” Gay said. His smile masked any hint of disappointment at not having any state champions. Perhaps that is because Anderson has returned to the point of having legitimate state contenders every year.
Dixon summed up those sentiments best. “It just feels amazing to bring it back,” he said.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.