TACOMA — After his event started 30 minutes late, after a 57-minute lightning delay, as the sun was setting on the horizon, Jameson Shirley finally could call himself a state champion.
Shirley, a senior at Skyview, triumphed in a stirring three-man duel to win the pole vault event at the Class 4A state track and field meet at Mount Tahoma High School.
He cleared 15 feet, 6 inches, a mark equalled by Austin Sodorff of Woodinville, but won on the basis of having fewer misses. Joe Thompson of Union was third with a mark of 15-3, continuing the season-long battles he has had with Shirley.
But it wasn’t decided until nearly 41/2 hours after the event was scheduled to begin.
First, the previous pole vault competition ran long. Next, there was a delay in the meet because of lightning in the area, a delay that was extended while the pole vaulters were allowed additional warmup time. Then, the three remaining vaulters kept things going until dusk.
They each cleared 15 feet. They each cleared 15-3, Thompson making it on his first try and Sordoff on his second, while Shirley needed all three attempts.
And when Shirley cleared 15-6 on his first try while Thompson went out and Sodorff required three attempts, it proved to be the winning vault for Shirley.
“I think I got blessed at 15-6,” Shirley said. “That bar should have fallen. I hit it really hard.”
Shirley and Sodorff both missed three times at 15-9, bringing an anticlimactic end to the proceedings.
“It was kind of weird,” Shirley said. “Last year I jumped 12-6 at state and finished 10th. I think the difference is that I got faster, worked on upper-body strength. My coaches, four days a week we did sprinting work.”
Thompson anticipated a tight battle. Four vaulters in the field had cleared 15 feet this season, with Shirley’s 15-7 as the top mark.
“I thought we were all going to put up a fight,” Thompson said. “I wanted more than what happened today.”
When Thompson cleared 15 feet and 15-3 on his first attempts, he appeared to be in control of the competition. He said he was done in by a strategic mistake when the bar went to 15-6.
“I should have switched poles,” he said. “I should have switched to a bigger pole.”
Shirley, who didn’t enter the competition until after the weather delay with the bar at 14-0, said the break worked in his favor.
“After the rain, it calmed down — no wind,” he said.
Other Clark County highlights from the second of three days at the Class 4A state meet:
• Union freshman Alexis Fuller recorded the best qualifying time in the 800 meters, finishing in 2:14.61. Sabrina Sears of Evergreen advanced as the No. 3 seed in 2:16.03.
• Union’s Tanner Sork recorded the best qualifying times in both the 400 meters and the 800. He will try for both titles in Saturday’s finals. Sork ran the 400 in 48.42 seconds and completed the 800 in 1:54.13.
• E’Lon Mack of Heritage advanced as the No. 7 seed in the 200 meters, finishing in 22.55.