There was an unusual air of optimism surrounding the field of Class AA girls pole vaulters during the state meet last Saturday. With the shocking development of two-time state champion and state record-holder Julia Fixsen, of Mounds View, failing to qualify for state the week before, the chance was there for any of the 16 qualifiers to take the title.
That optimism, however, didn’t last too long as Cambridge-Isanti’s Char Morke quickly gave notice that she was determined that if anyone would sit in the vacated throne as queen of the pole vault, it would be her.
“I really feel bad for Julia because she is such an amazing person and amazing athlete,” Morke said of Fixsen, who she has been friends with for many years dating back to when the two competed in gymnastics for the Twin Cities Twisters club. “But I know she is still going to do great things in the future, so I’m excited about winning state.”
“I’m so thrilled for you,” Fixsen told Morke as the two hugged after the awards ceremony. “This was your moment to shine.”
And shine she did. After passing on the opening 10-foot height, the senior easily cleared five-straight heights without even gently brushing part of her uniform on the bar. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition tried to keep up, relying on a combination of determination and a bit of luck.
“I felt confident coming into the meet because I knew I had a higher personal record than some of the other girls,” Morke said. “So I knew as long as I focused on myself and not on things I couldn’t control the outcome would be positive.”
After the bar reached 11 feet, 6 inches, half of the field had been eliminated, leaving a final eight that only included one other vaulter not having a failed attempt at some point. Another five bowed out at 11 feet, 9 inches, leaving just Morke and two others to attempt clearing 12 feet.
Having the best qualifying height coming into state, Morke had the luxury of watching the other two competitors make their first attempt before having to step onto the runway herself, with both of them missing that first attempt.
Once again, Morke literally rose to the occasion, easily clearing the bar, but this time punctuating it with a double fist-pump as she dropped back down to earth.
“I went over, saw the bar and threw my pole and I could just see I was over it,” Morke said. “I knew that making that on my first attempt was going to make the meet.”
Then it was just waiting to see if one or both of the two remaining would also clear 12 feet and thus extend the competition to the next height. But despite loud encouragement from the crowd, including Fixsen and Morke themselves (“Julia was there cheering for everyone, and I wanted to do the same,” Morke explained), the two remaining athletes couldn’t get over the bar, thus giving Morke the state championship.
For an encore, Morke then cleared 12 feet, 4 inches, again on her first attempt. But that was as far as it went, as three attempts at 12 feet, 7 inches fell short.
The senior won’t have much time to bask in the glory of her title, however. Morke leaves for basic training for the Naval Academy in two weeks. When asked what she would be doing in those two weeks, Morke had an unusual response.
“I have to get into shape,” she said with a laugh before explaining “I’m not good at distance running, and I will be doing a lot of that down there.”
Morke also stated that there won’t be any more pole vaulting, at least in the near future, “but that’s okay. I’ll be able to do enough of that at the Academy once the college season begins.”
Bluejackets do well at state
Besides Morke, the Bluejacket boys and girls track team had a very busy and overall successful state meet.
Blaze Krueger was again a double-medalist after taking fourth in the shot put and fifth in the discus. Gaven Ziebarth collected three medals by coming in eighth in the 100 dash and being part of the eighth-place 4x200 relay, which was also comprised of Jacob Steinbring, Dylan Larson and Dylan Jones; and seventh-place 4x100 relay, along with teammates Kaden Slepic, Jones and Steinbring. Two of the three boys pole vaulters who competed at state came away with a medal as Joseph Stauffer took fourth and Ethan Hintermeister came in seventh. The final vaulter, Amadeus McElrath, finished in 11th.
On the girls side, the 4x200 relay team comprised of Aiyana Knight, Jacqueline Olander, Chloe Nelson and Anika Larson finished in seventh with a new school record. And while the 4x100 relay team of Kaylee Clement, Knight, Olander and Morke failed to advance to the finals, they did set a new school record at 49.74.
Also competing at state, but unfortunately not advancing to the podium, were Dylan Jones (14th, 200), AnnaGrace Nelson (13th, high jump and triple jump) and Kaylee Clement (18th, 100).