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4A/3A/2A track and field: Camas’ Chase McGee has history-making performance in Class 4A state pole vault victory

Junior wins at lifetime best of 16-6 as part of big day for Clark County pole vaulters

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 24, 2024, 9:07pm
23 Photos
Camas’ Chase McGee clears the bar during the 4A boys pole vault competition Friday, May 24, 2024, during the WIAA State Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
Camas’ Chase McGee clears the bar during the 4A boys pole vault competition Friday, May 24, 2024, during the WIAA State Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

TACOMA — With a state title secured as the last Class 4A boys pole vaulter remaining, Chase McGee had the Mount Tahoma Stadium crowd’s full attention. 

The higher Camas High’s standout pole vaulter climbed — first at 16 feet 3 inches, then one-upped that again at 16-6 for the eventual winning height — the more he celebrated as the spectators’ roars grew louder. 

“It was an awesome, crazy experience,” McGee said. “Running down the runway and everybody is clapping, and you make that bar and everybody is just cheering for you. 

“It’s amazing.”

That’s what happens when you have not one, but two lifetime-best marks at the state track and field championships that happen to rank among the best all-time in state meet history. 

According to all-time records and results kept by state track and field historian Scott Spruill, McGee’s 16-6 state title-winning mark ranks third all-time at a Washington state meet across all classifications. Only the 4A state meet record, set in 2002 by University’s Tyson Byers at 17 feet, and former national high school record holder Casey Carrigan’s mark of 16-7 at state in 1969, are higher.  

After a 4A runner-up finish in 2023, McGee’s state title Friday adds another notch to an impressive 2024 spring. He went undefeated in the pole vault, including wins at the prestigious Oregon Relays and Nike/Jesuit Relays in April. 

The latter is the last — and only time before Friday — when he cleared 16 feet or higher. It was only a matter of time when it’d happen again, McGee said. 

Sure enough, it happened on the biggest stage Friday. McGee wasn’t aware one of the all-time best marks in state meet history awaited him when he entered the afternoon’s competition at 14-6 — nearly two hours after the opening height of 12 feet kicked off the 18-vaulter field.

Then it was down to two vaulters — McGee and Lewis and Clark’s Kyle Worthy — after they successfully cleared 16 feet. When the bar got raised to 16-3, McGee cleared it on his opening attempt alongside the crowd’s cheers. 

“When I hit 16-3, I was like, ‘I’m not done yet — I want more,’” he said. “It was awesome to hit that.”

Worthy missed all three attempts at 16-3, leaving the competition solely to McGee. He asked the bar be raised to 16-6, which he cleared on his second attempt to set a new lifetime best by 5 inches. He missed all three attempts at 16-9, a height he said he needs to qualify for the USATF U-20 Championships. 

However, McGee finished what was an impressive day in pole vault for Clark County. In Class 2A, the 2A Greater St. Helens League had state runner-up and third-place finishes in both boys and girls competitions, powered by Columbia River’s Eli Wenger (boys, 14-6) and Cicily Orziotti (girls, 11-0) each placing second. Washougal’s Tanner Hardley and Hockinson’s Celia Racanelli each got third. 

Orziotti and Racanelli each matched their lifetime bests Friday to end their high school careers. While Racanelli is a two-time pole vault state qualifier, Orziotti is a first-year pole vaulter. She missed last season recovering from an ACL injury. Given her gymnastics background, she said she decided to give pole vault a try now back 100 percent healthy for 2024. Friday was the second time she cleared 11 feet. 

“A lot of gymnasts go to pole vault,” Orziotti said, “and I ended up making a lot of really good friends, and I really enjoyed the season.”

Racanelli, the 3A/2A gymnast of the year this past winter season, said gymnasts make good pole vaulters for two good reasons.

“We have no fear of heights,” she said, “because we’re used to that. Also, the flexibility of bending the pole and getting your toes up past your head. It’s a lot, and I think they combined really well.”

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AROUND THE TRACK: Columbia River leads the 2A boys team scoring with 33 points, getting podium finishes Friday from Wenger, Ryker Loukkula (discus) and John Reeder (long jump). Sprinter Revac Banfield posted the top preliminary times in the 100 and 200 for Saturday’s finals. He also anchored River’s 4×100 relay team that ran Friday’s third-fastest preliminary time. … Ridgefield has the top 2A girls 4×100 relay time from Friday’s preliminary, powered by an anchor run from sprinter McKenna Calkins, also a 100-meter finalist Saturday. … Hudson’s Bay’s Paris Ackerman is guaranteed to reach the podium in all three of her events. After placing second Friday in the 2A girls long jump (17-0.75), Ackerman ran the seventh-fastest times in the 200 and 400. The top eight finishers on the track advance to Saturday’s finals. … The 2A GSHL had a trio of girls discus throwers reach the podium: R.A. Long’s Kamia Tootoosis-Didier (second), Washougal’s Iris Hancock (sixth) and Columbia River’s Logan DeJong (eighth). … Mountain View had its second straight top-3 finish in the throws when Cash Cook placed third in the 3A boys javelin (168-1).

Friday’s 4A/3A/2A state track and field results