Lakewood Soroco High School junior Jessica Rossi had cleared 8 feet, 2 inches in the pole vault all of once in her life. Last weekend, she eked over that height to tie the school record and win the Western Slope League meet.
She made it look like an old habit Friday, however, and that lifted her near the top of the field in the Class 2A girls pole vault at the state track meet in Lakewood.
Rossi didn’t miss a jump until she was trying for 8-8, and being clean all the way through the competition gave her an edge and helped her place in a tie for second.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Rossi said. “I know I could have done better, but I feel really blessed right now.”
The Rams have been competing without coach David Bruner this week as he’s stranded in Routt County battling illness. It’s been a factor, his athletes explained, as he’s often the one standing by the fence and offering advice, critiquing form and helping fine-tune starting positions.
“He’s prepared me and he’s coached me well. I was telling myself, ‘I can do it,’” Rossi said. “I had my assistant coach, who helped me, and other local coaches helped me, too, so that was a blessing. But I wanted to go out and do it for” Bruner.
She did him proud Friday, leading the way for an otherwise so-so day for Soroco.
The Rams also competed in three relays. Rossi, Hayley Johnson, Leah Walorski and DaKota Bruner placed 15th in the girls 400-meter relay early in the morning, improving on their season’s best time, but failing to qualify for finals with a time of 53.37 seconds.
The last team in, Springfield, had a time of 52.75.
Rossi, Johnson, Walorski and Cassie Constine then ran in the 1,600-meter relay in the afternoon and finished with eerily similar results. They were again 15th. They again logged a season-best time — 4 minutes, 26.29 seconds — and the last team into the finals again was Springfield, at 4:19.72.
The boys team of Bjorn Carlson, Andrew Herzog, Micah Gibbons and Chance Beaty also competed in the 1,600 relay Friday, finishing 16th in 3:40.98, a little more than three seconds back of a finals-qualifying mark.
“We were hoping to cut at least a second per split,” senior Carlson said. “We pretty much broke even, though.”
Kali Constine, meanwhile, also competed with Rossi in the pole vault. She wasn’t able to maintain the magic she had shown Thursday, when she leapt to a third-place finish in the high jump. On Friday, she failed to clear a height and finished 20th.
Even for those whose meet ended Friday, all was not lost.
“It’s a blessing just to be here,” Beaty said.
Rossi was the team’s best chance for a medal entering the day and she didn’t disappoint. She flew over the first heights without coming even close to the bar, leaving a foot to spare at 6-2, 6-8, 7-2 and 7-8.
Then, she came to 8-2 and did it again, without that huge margin for error, but without even brushing the bar, either.
The next height, 8-8, loomed like a stone wall for the entire field. Five athletes went at it, but only Yuma sophomore Monica Drury cleared it, and only barely. She did it on her third attempt, sliding over the top, falling to the mat then having to watch as the bar bounced up and down, finally deciding to stay put, in effect crowning Drury state champion.
Two of the three other jumpers who went out at 8-2 had the same clean slate Rossi had, so second place was split three ways, with Rossi, Akron's Karli Christensen and Yuma's Mallory Noble.
“I came really close to clearing that height, but I nicked it on my last try,” Rossi said.
Now it’s on to the finale for local track teams, Saturday’s boys high jump. It’s the only event remaining for the Soroco and Hayden teams, but it’s one that’s filled with local talent. Soroco’s Carlson and Ryan Jeep will compete, as will Hayden’s Thomas Rauch, the best seeded of the trio.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9