COLUMBUS — Otsego senior Dakota Keifer won a state pole vault championship Saturday, but adding to the school’s storied pole vault legacy was the seventh place finish by another senior, Carson Lathrop.
Lathrop cleared 14 feet, four inches, a personal record. Otsego pole vault coach Shaun Downey said the good weather in both the regional and state meet was ideal for vaulting, but the 90-degree heat at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium Saturday brought its’ challenges, too.
“It was a hot day and, in the morning, too, so we prepped a little bit differently for the week with practice sessions in the morning the week of,” Downey said.
“The game plan going into it, since there are so many jumpers, you only have a minimal time to get warmed up.
“What Carson did well was we prepped early for a long run, and he did everything. As far as prepping for the meet, it was probably one of our best warm-up sessions leading up to it.
“Like Dakota was saying, his shin was hurting a little bit, so his warm-ups were a little bit challenging, but Carson actually put together an excellent warm-up series together — the best he’s ever done, and it showed. To PR and do what he did, I’m hoping he jumps at the next level.”
Keifer credited Lathrop, too, because he had someone to push him. This was Lathrop’s second year qualifying for state in only his second year vaulting. Plus, anytime a school puts two athletes on the state podium in one event, it is a big deal.
“Carson and I have always been super good friends all the way throughout junior high and high school,” Keifer said. “Last year was his first year jumping, and when he joined, he and I immediately clicked.
“Our competitiveness, because before I used to only have that in meets, but when he started jumping and getting closer, it really pushed me to work even harder always trying to outwork him and just be better than him no matter what.
“That was my philosophy going into every practice was to be better than Carson. He had a good day, too (at state). I was super happy for him because he’s always been super hard on himself.
“He finally achieved what his main goal was, which was All-Ohio. It was a good thing for me to see. Once he was one of the top eight guys, I went over to him and gave him a big, old hug.”
In turn, Keifer and Lathrop credited Downey and the Downey family’s vaulting facility where they train in the offseason.
“Shaun has been super good with me for the six years I’ve been doing it. He’s always there,” Keifer said.
“Whenever I need to talk with him or need help on a certain thing, he always explains it well to me. He is always willing to do the extra stuff that Carson and I always wanted. He’s always there for whatever we want to do, for more jumping, for more lifting, he’ll always be there to help us through that.
“Having the shop is super important because we don’t have to travel as far to go jump indoors. That makes it a lot easier to be able to drive five minutes away from home and jump instead of having to drive like an hour. It makes it a lot easier for us.”
In addition, Otsego sophomore Nathan Strahm placed 11th in the 800 meter run, finishing in 1:57.21.
As a result, Otsego scored 12 points, finishing 18th as a team. Cleveland Glenville won the title with 60 points, followed by Woodridge (34), Huron (31), Norwayne (25), Bexley (23), and St. Clairsville and Toledo Central Catholic tied with 20 points each.
Otsego sophomore Brooke Simon, after winning a D-II regional championship the week prior, failed to place at the state meet.
“She competed (Friday) in the discus and it didn’t go as we wanted,” Otsego girls track coach Chad McClory said.
“But as a sophomore being able to get down there and just get a taste of it, she said she is more determined now than ever to get back down there and get on the podium and try to be at the top.
“I’m super proud of her and all the work she put in and she worked and worked. I can’t wait for the next two years.”