South Carroll’s Grace Fipps danced competitively for 10 years and did gymnastics before she found her niche in pole vault.
When she was a freshman, Fipps saw Summer Bingaman, a Times first-team all-county track athlete with the Cavaliers, vaulting after school and she thought it looked intriguing. Bingaman took Fipps under her wing and with the help of her dance and gymnastics experience, pole vaulting became one of her track and field talents.
Fipps holds the county’s top spot in two events — pole vault and the 55-meter dash. She captured both individual titles at last week’s county meet as the Cavaliers girls’ squad won the indoor team title for the second year in a row.
South Carroll will go after another team title Saturday at the Class 2A West Region meet at Hagerstown Community College.
“It’s very exciting and it means a lot to us when we accomplish things like that because you’re out in the freezing cold everyday and that’s got to account for something,” Fipps said. “It’s been a while since the girls won, 28 years I think, so we’re striving to be better and focus on our races so we can keep doing well.”
Fipps used to race in the 4x200 meter relay but it interfered with pole vault, she said. Cavaliers coach Kevin Selby decided to give her a break from relays this season so she could focus on her other events.
Her first place finish in the 55 dash at last week’s county meet was a personal-record sprint of 7.49 seconds. Her highest cleared height for pole vault is 9 feet, a feat she accomplished at the Western Maryland Winter Classic on Jan. 12. At the county meet, she won by clearing 8-6.
“Those are definitely my favorite events I really like to do the best,” Fipps said. “I play field hockey and I’ve always been a sprinter on the team so when I got to track, I wanted to try short sprints. We have a new sprinting coach this season and that’s really helped me out a lot with new techniques and drills.”
Senior Allie Zolkiewicz repeated as the 300, 500, and 800 individual champion at the county meet. Megan O’Neill, a junior, took third in the 300, second in the 500, and third in the 800 behind teammate Jamie Anderson.
Anderson finished second in the 1,600 run, and the Cavs’ 4x200 meter relay team captured a county title as well.
The Cavaliers are very spread out in terms of events, Fipps said. It’s helped the team train harder and push one another now that championship season is in full effect.
“I think it really helps us to be spread out and each girl has their own thing,” Fipps said. “It really helps the team together because we can be there to watch and support each other and cheer everyone on.”
This is Fipps’ second season with the indoor team and when outdoor season arrives, it will be her third. Last winter, she helped the Cavs placed second in the region and fifth in the state after winning the county crown.
At Saturday’s regional meet, which also includes Century, Liberty, and Winters Mill, Fipps said she’s anticipating setting new goals in order to qualify for the state meet.
(Francis Scott Key is also competing Saturday in the 1A West meet at the same site.)
“I know our team has high hopes for performing well,” Fipps said. “We have a lot of strong runners in different events and all of us have a pretty good chance of qualifying. There’s a lot of strong competition in the relays and we’ll definitely build together as a team.”