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She saved the best for last

Pole vaulter keeps state title in her final meet

Pole vaulter keeps state title in her final meet

June 02, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

WILLIAMSPORT

The thought resurfaced during the first day of the Maryland state track meet: This could be the last time the defending state champion competes in the pole vault.

Lacie Johnson, the Class 1A state champ from Williamsport High School, had started to wrap her mind around that possibility weeks before the meet began.

She entered the last meet of her high school career with five state titles: three in volleyball and two in pole vault.

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On May 26, the first day of the state track and field championships, Lacie defended her pole vault title, clearing 10 feet, her best performance ever.

But despite her accomplishments in the sport, Lacie said she's not sure whether she'll compete in pole vault next year at the college level.

"I'm definitely playing volleyball," the 17-year-old said. "I'm going to (University of North Carolina at) Pembroke. I got a scholarship."

Lacie said she's been playing club volleyball since she was in eighth grade. She thought joining the track team her sophomore year would make her better in other sports.

"I did it to keep in shape," she said. "I liked the competitiveness of the sport."

She chose vaulting instead of running because it reminded her of gymnastics, another of her sports.

"I was so bad," Lacie said of her first year as a pole vaulter. "I almost gave up. Coaches always tell you that you plateau at something, but you'll eventually get better."

Lacie entered the state meet as the top seed with a state-best mark of 9 feet, 8 inches.

"There's more pressure being seeded first," Lacie said. "It's what you perform, it's not what you do on paper."

To clear the bar, Lacie had to run at a constant speed of at least 14 miles per hour and plant her pole at precisely the right moment. She had to negotiate when and how to flip her body over the bar, taking care to flick her pole outward and away as she landed.

All of this occurs in less time than it takes to read the explanation the process.

"It really is mental," she said.

Lacie also finished fifth in the triple jump and placed ninth in the long jump, helping the Williamsport girls team to the state title.

Lacie said her college plans include a major in biology, with a biomedical emphasis. She hopes to minor in psychology, she said.

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