NEW PORT RICHEY — River Ridge pole vaulter Devon Jerothe went into last weekend’s Class 3A state track and field championship second behind Osceola’s Carson Waters and knew it would be a tough battle to unseat one of the state’s best.
With rainy conditions making the course wet at the University of North Florida, Jerothe, a senior, cleared 14 feet to come away with a state title. Jerothe, who finished fourth in 2013, follows former River Ridge pole vaulter Evan Bales, who reached the state finals in the event last season and placed second.
“It was definitely unexpected,” Jerothe said. “Because there was another jumper there who was better than me. We were all having a bad day, but I just focused on clearing a height. I was really scared when I missed on my first two attempts. Third attempts are always my least favorite, obviously, because if you miss it you’re done.”
There were days Jerothe wanted to quit pole vaulting, especially as an underclassman. Some days he wouldn’t even get off the ground, plus the every day grind started to disinterest him from the sport.
A top-five finish in the 2013 Class 3A state championships gave Jerothe a boost heading into this season, but added he still wasn’t that committed.
“In the beginning of this season, I was pretty laid back with pole vaulting,” Jerothe said. “Not practicing as much as I should’ve been and then districts came and I ended up winning a district title. That made me realize I should be practicing a little more. I started practicing a lot more and becoming more focused.”
With the help of his father, Russell, who directs High Standards Pole Vault, and River Ridge assistant coach Andrew Bales, who coaches for High Standards, Jerothe began a run toward states. Though Jerothe felt a title may not be within reach, Bales said he had a good feeling.
“The best part about Devon is he is a natural-born pole vaulter,” Bales said.
“He has the physique for it, but we had some struggles getting him motivated for it. He had a bad stretch where he couldn’t leave the ground for awhile. Once he got off the ground, he got re-engaged quickly. I had a really good feeling heading into states that he was going to win. I really did.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.