Riverhead’s Villa vaults into state championship

Riverhead’s Charles Villa easily won the pole vault competition Wednesday night to earn a trip to the state championship. (Robert O’Rourk photo)

All it took was three vaults to send Charles Villa to the state championship.

Riverhead’s star pole vaulter — whose top height this season is nearly two feet higher than anyone else in Suffolk County — topped 14 feet on his third vault Wednesday night, clinching the Section XI title and a trip to the state championship.

By the time Villa entered into the competition at 13-0, only three other vaulters remained. Villa easily topped his first two heights, 13-0 and 13-6, and then put together a near flawless jump at 14 feet that was ultimately the winner.

“Perfect” was how Riverhead coach Sal Loverde described Villa’s 14-foot vault.

A year after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the state meet after a competitor nailed one last vault at 13-9, Villa punched his first ticket to the state meet in the indoor season. He competed at the state meet last spring in the outdoor season.

Wearing a wide smile Wednesday throughout the competition, chatting in between vaults and making jokes, Villa never really faced any doubt about whether he would qualify. Still, there were some nerves, as is always the case in pole vault, where just a few mishaps can result in a no-height.

That’s what happened to Villa in his previous meet at the New Balance Games Jan. 24. He missed his first three attempts to finish with the dreaded no-height.

It remained in the back of his mind as he entered the competition, which was held at a training facility in Holtsville where most of the pole vaulters practice throughout the year.

Villa hoped to enter the competition at 13-6. Loverde wanted him to enter at a lower height. So they compromised and agreed at 13-0.

Villa will compete in two more meets, the Long Island Elite Track Invitational (Jan. 21) and the Eastern State Championship (Feb. 24).

The state championship is March 1 at Cornell University.

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