Clearing her head was just as important to Vanessa Davis as clearing the 13-foot mark in Saturday’s pole vault event at the 74th annual Chandler Rotary.
After clearing 12-6 early in the season a year ago, the Desert Vista junior focused on getting to 13 feet by the end of the year. Only she leveled off and stayed at 12-6 all year long before posting 12-9 toward the end.
It left Davis, despite winning state, frustrated with her progress.
So posting a mark of 13-foot early in this season bodes well for Davis. She has no plans of replicating last year’s season when she seemed to get stagnant, especially considering she nearly cleared 13-5, which would have been the state record, on Saturday.
“It means so much to get to 13,” said Davis, who tied the Chandler Rotary meet record. “I’ve been so focused on it for so long that now I can move past it.”
Thunder pole vault coach Jeff Guy said it was huge after not performing as expected last week at the indoor nationals.
“The difference is being a 16-year-old sophomore compared to a 17-year- old junior,” Guy said. “As she has matured as a student athlete her confidence level has increased. She is on pace to have a great year. To have already cleared 12-6 three times already is huge. Last year we wanted to be consistent at 12 feet. Now we are wanting to be 12-6 to 12-9 consistently and pop the big one every once in awhile.”
The Thunder girls had several athletes come up big on the largest stage of the Arizona track regular season.
Makenzi Holmes-Digiovine needed to have a little talk with herself in the early going, but afterward the Desert Vista senior thrower put it together.
“I was nervous and frustrated at first,” she said. “Then I told myself I’m a senior, I’m committed (to Auburn) and it’s supposed to be a fun year so let it go.”
Soon after that, she had two consecutive personal record throws to get into the finals of the shot put and finished in fourth place with a throw of 39-11.5 to just miss the school record in the event before finishing first in the discus at 133-05.
“I’ve never had my last throw be my best throw so that was really good for me,” she said.
Another personal record was set by senior Damali Britton, who finished the triple jump with an effort of 36-8 to finish second, while freshman Baylee Jones won the 3200 meter run in 10 minutes and 55.31 second. Sophomore Mason Swenson finished second in the 800 meter run in 2:16.85 minutes, sophomore Shannon Fritz was fourth in the high jump (5-02) and freshman Mandy Davis finished sixth in the 1600 meter run at 5 minutes and 04.86 seconds.
“We had a really good day,” Thunder girls Cassandra Kline said. “We have some young athletes, but they came out and performed.”
And that doesn’t take into account the fact that Desert Vista’s top female distance runner Dani Jones was held out because of a minor case of shin splints with the hope that Jones will be 100 percent for Arcadia Invitational in California April 11-12.
The Mountain Pointe girls were led by Autumn Smith as the school record holder in both events finished fifth in the 300 meter hurdles and 10th in the 100 meter hurdles, while Rees Young was sixth in the long jump and ninth in the triple jump.
The boys action centered around Pride sprinter Paul Lucas, who is one of the nation’s premier junior sprinters.
He stumbled out of the block in the 100 and still managed to win the event easily at 10.52 seconds to miss breaking the meet record by .03 seconds.
“I’ve been so clean in practice and I wanted to get at least 10.39,” he said. “Out of the blocks I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I’ll be back for the 200.”
He certainly was as Lucas set the school record and meet record with a time of 20.91.
Other top eight performers included the Thunder’s Connor Watson as he was fifth in the triple jump at 44-03, while Torrey Hickle was sixth in the discus at 143-08 and the Thunder’s Jakob Alme was second in the pole vault at 15-0.
Other meet highlights:
* Long Beach Poly’s Juan Ward won the 110 hurdles in 14.22 to edge Corona del Sol’s Tevin Mayfield (14.30). Then Mayfield came back and won the 300 in 37.90 with Ward second at 38.09.
* Cerake Geberkidane of Denver East set the meet record in the 1600 meter run with an effort of 4:06.56 with Corona del Sol’s Nathan Rodriguez second at 4:11.10.
“I wasn’t expecting a time like that,” Rodriguez said of Geberkidane’s record pace. “I would have run the race differently had I known, but I'm feeling strong right now."
* Perry’s Cade Burks won the 800 meter run with a time of 1:54.90, which was nearly a full four seconds better than his seeded time. It is the fastest time in the nation for a sophomore.
* Three other area kids when sub-11.00 in the 100 to finish behind Lucas as Westwood's Joseph Clark (10.83), Chandler's DJ Ware (10.88) and Queen Creek's Weston Barlow (10.96) all finished in the top eight.
* Chandler’s Ky Westbrook ran her first 100 of the season and won it in 11.64 and she finished second in the shot put to teammate Bianca Finn. She came back to win the 200 in 24.45.
“It’s a good starting point,” she said of her 100. “I knew right away it wasn’t going to be a great time. You can feel (a good time) and it wasn’t there, but I am confident I’ll have a good year.”
* Dior Hall of George Washington (Colorado) won the 100 meter hurdles in a meet record of 13.66.
*Chandler girls 4x100 relay was DQ after the baton exchanged was dropped on the first exchange, but still crossed the finish line in a distant second to Long Beach Poly.
* Hamilton’s Ashlee Moore won the high jump at 5-08.
* Chandler freshman Tiana Poirier-Shelton won the girls triple jump at 36-08.5.
* North Canyon junior Jasmine Stauffacher Gray set Chandler Rotary record in girls 400 at 54.69
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.