TACOMA — She probably didn’t realize it at the time, but Jennifer DeBellis spent her childhood preparing to become a pole vault champion.
“I’ve been a gymnast my whole life,” the Columbia River junior said. “I never did pole vault until my freshman year. There are a lot of similarities. Pole vault compares mostly to the bars; you use a lot of the same body movements.”
DeBellis has won individual and team titles at the state gymnastics meet. She won a team title at last year’s state track meet. And now she has an individual title in track, winning the pole vault and setting a meet record Saturday at the Class 3A state track and field meet at Mount Tahoma High School.
DeBellis cleared 12 feet, 6 inches, easily topping the 11-6 mark by runner-up Courtney Bray from Mt. Spokane of Mead.
It was part of a parade of championships for Clark County athletes at the 3A meet, as Megan Kelley of Camas won the girls 400 meters and Prairie’s Jon Lawson won the boys shot put.
For DeBellis, the victory meant she skipped a step in climbing the awards podium. She finished fourth in state as a freshman and third as a sophomore before ascending to the top spot.
“I always get really nervous at the beginning, so I was a little shaky at the start,” she said. “All I wanted to do was win and break a record.”
In other highlights from the Class 3A state meet:
• In addition to winning the 400 meters, Kelley was second in the 200, sixth in the 100, and helped Camas to a second-place finish in the 1,600 relay. She had a hand in 29 of the 37 points the Papermakers scored en route to a fourth-place finish.
• Lawson won the shot put for the second year in a row, adding it to the discus title he captured earlier in the meet.
“It was pretty good, but I did not throw as far as I wanted,” he said after winning with a mark of 55-9½. Jeffrey Jordan from Peninsula of Purdy was second at 53-7½.
“I’m pretty disappointed, but I can’t complain,” Lawson said. “I won, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
• Lynelle Decker, a junior from Mountain View, was second in the girls 800 and eighth in the 1,600.
In the 800, she finished in 2:13.60, behind the 2:12.58 by Madeline Rathbun from Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls.
“I wanted to get her at the end,” she said. “It’s a PR; I finally beat my time from freshman year, so I’m happy.”
• Sara Slayton of Camas was fourth in the girls 300 hurdles.
• Johna McEllrath of Prairie was fourth in the shot put. Earlier in the meet, she finished sixth in the javelin.
• Kathran Dean of Mountain View finished fourth in the triple jump. Earlier in the meet, she was second in the long jump.