Rifle vaulters have good showing | PostIndependent.com

Rifle vaulters have good showing

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent; Rifle's Tori Jorgensen clears 9 feet in the pole vault Friday at the Class 4A state track and field meet at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood.

LAKEWOOD, Colorado ” James Martinez remembers watching pole vaulters at the state meet two years ago and thinking he might just give the sport a whirl.

The Rifle sophomore did just that this season, capitalizing on his school’s introduction of the event into its track and field program this year.

And it was quite the inaugural season for Martinez, and the entire Bears team.

Rifle sent three pole vaulters ” Martinez, Kyle Zumbrennan and Tori Jorgensen ” to Friday’s 4A state track and field meet in Lakewood.

Jorgensen led the way amongst the Bear trio, clearing a personal-best 9 feet to grab eighth and score points for her team. Martinez cleared 11-6 and Zumbrennan 12 feet.

“It’s exciting,” said Jorgensen, the only girl on the team. “I usually just did running, but I thought pole vault could be neat to do. I ended up doing somewhat well.”

While Jorgensen did Rifle proud by besting her own school record, no pole vaulter came close to accomplishing what Longmont’s Elizabeth Stover did. The senior shattered her own state record by clearing 13-3, captivating the Jefferson County Stadium crowd as the bar climbed higher and higher.

While the Bears aren’t quite there yet, pole vault coach Josh Keppeler beamed with pride over what his proteges are accomplishing despite being so green to the event.

“At the beginning of the year, if you had asked me if I’d have three kids at state, I would have said, ‘No way,'” said Keppeler, who was a decathlete at Defiance College in Ohio. “I’m totally surprised at how quickly they’ve picked it up.”

What Keppeler and head track and field coach Jerry Shafer were aiming to do by implementing pole vault into the curriculum is draw more young athletes to the sport.

“We’ve found that if we can get kids out for pole vault, they’ll want to do other things,” said Shafer.

On top of boosting numbers, pole vault helps in the meet team standings. Shafer cited the 2007 Western Slope Regionals in making the latter case. The Bears’ boys team needed until the last event to pull out the win over Battle Mountain, who had a 20-something point edge going into the weekend with pole vault points already in the bag. (Regional pole vault is held on its own before everything else.)

Pole vault did not help Rifle win regionals this year, but it did give them three state qualifiers they would not have otherwise had.

“This was their first time competing at state, their first time for the big time,” Keppeler said. “We’re definitely looking forward to next year.”

With much of the team suffering from flu-like symptoms, Rifle failed to send anyone past the preliminaries in Friday’s track action.

“They’re out there throwing up before they even start running,” said Shafer, also under the weather. “We’ve got three coaches and about six or seven kids down.”

Clayton Spillane came up short in the boys 110 high hurdles, finishing 18th with a time of 16.29 seconds. Adolfo Ruiz was 18th in the boys 300 hurdles (45.17).

Hazen Moss, a qualifier in the 400, scratched out of the event due to a recently re-aggravated hamstring injury.

With alternates regularly finding their way into the relay lineups, Rifle relay teams struggled on Friday.

The boys 4×100 squad finished 18th (45.22), the boys 4×200 foursome took 17th (1:33.97) and the boys 4×400 relayers placed 15th (3:32.28).

The Bears’ girls 4×400 team placed 18th (4:19.83) in its preliminary.

While Rifle athletes won’t take to the track today, one Bear will be busy with a field event. Boys high jumper Tyler Rust will compete in back-to-back preliminary and finals action beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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