Liberty junior Zach Stump was all smiles as he received high fives, hugs and congratulations at the conclusion of Thursday's pole vault event at the Class 2A state championship meet.
The Lions pole vaulter had just cleared 14 feet for his first state title, surpassing Century's Kyle Bryant, the reigning champion, who finished second at 13-6. Lions senior Braedan Balch came in third after clearing 13 feet.
"It was such a great feeling when I cleared it because it's a stress reliever and now all the pressure is on the other guy," Stump said. "I'm good friends with Kyle and he, Braedan and I have been together this whole time. It's one gigantic group trip and still, when it comes down to a state meet, you're going against the guy. You don't want to admit it, but on that last attempt, I was hoping he would get over as a friend, but I also wanted to win."
Bryant, a senior, made three attempts to match the 14-foot height after Stump cleared it first, but he came up short. He and Balch — two of the "Three Musketeers," as Stump said — watched while he made attempts at a higher height.
"Pole vaulting is so nice because, in general it can be supportive, but to have two close friends to cheer you on while it's going on is just great," Stump said. "It's mixed feelings when you're up against them in the finals but it's so much nicer when you're up against a friend because if I lose, is it really that bad because then my friend wins. Yeah, you want to win but at the same time one of the three are going to win so it's all good."
The meet, held at Morgan State University, was halted for a 30-minute lightning delay around 6:45 p.m. with events still to be completed. A thunderstorm then ensued, and the remainder of the meet was postponed until Saturday morning — the remaining 1A and 2A events will go off at 10 a.m. The three-day meet will pick up again Friday with the Class 3A and 4A athletes.
Liberty and Century are 1-2 in the boys 2A team standings, albeit after only three events scored. Liberty has 25 points, Century has 20.5.
South Carroll's Megan O'Neill, Karly Eudy, Jamie Anderson, and Allie Zolkiewicz once again dominated the girls 4x800 relay, taking first in 9 minutes, 20.22 seconds. It was a repeat victory for the relay team, which took first at states last year in 9:39.01.
The Cavs captured a regional title in the 4x800 as well.
Liberty's boys 4x800 relay team of Alec Pellicciotti, Woodrow Kashima, Nick Tilson, and Brooks Chaney repeated as state victors (8:11.35) in a thrilling head-to-head finish with county foe South Carroll. The Cavaliers got past the Lions at the 2A West region meet, but Chaney, the Lions' anchor leg, was determined to keep it from happening again.
"Coming into it, we knew they beat us at regionals and it was real close," Chaney said. "I was trying to kick there but he had a little bit more than me. I was coming in today feeling confident. They had the lead and I couldn't go out too fast but I had to make sure I was there to be able to kick past him at the finish. I got him coming around the last lap and I was holding on in that final 200. Everything I had going there was for Nick and Alec, to send them out good. They were my inspiration for everything."
Pellicciotti praised Kashima, a freshman in his first season of track, for getting the Lions in a good spot mid-race. Liberty, South Carroll and Southern battled for first, second and third most of the way and Southern found the lead on the third leg. Cavs' anchor Lee Goodson carried a good lead with a little over a 400 to go as Chaney inched closer.
In the final 200, it became a match race between Chaney and Goodson but Chaney stayed slightly ahead to cross the line first.
"It's amazing," Tilson said. "Coming into it, that was our goal. We wanted to go back to back and Alec and I wanted to finish with another state championship. I would rather not run with any other team, these guys are awesome. We push each other every day in practice and we had our eyes set on trying to win states again and we did it."