Pole vaulters are a different breed — in more ways than one.
For one thing, there aren’t many other sporting activities in which opponents actually cheer each other on. Pole vaulters share a sort of camaraderie, regardless of school affiliation.
“Everyone wants everyone to go higher and higher,” Riverhead High School senior Kyle Gevinski said. “It’s competitive, but it’s not cutthroat competitive.”
Well, there was a good deal of cheering going on, from competitors and non-competitors alike Wednesday night when the top high school pole vaulters in Suffolk County gathered at Shoreham-Wading River High School for the pole vaulting phase of the Section XI indoor state qualifier.
The loudest cheers were reserved for the end of the four-hour event when Commack’s Ryan Lawless, the No. 1 seed, wowed spectators by clearing a season-high 14 feet on his final attempt at that height. The senior then failed two attempts at 14-3 before finishing with a miss at 14-3 1/4.
Second-place Laurence Barr-Forget, a junior from Westhampton Beach who did 13-0, will join Lawless in the state meet that will be held March 4 at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.
On a night when the bar was in a charitable mood, several poles touched the bar without knocking it down. “Usually when you touch the bar it’s coming off, but today the bar was forgiving,” said Gevinski.
Gevinski benefitted from one of those instances. On his first attempt at 11-0, his pole fell against the bar and rolled off, but the bar remained in place. Gevinski failed on his next three attempts at 12-0, but he equaled his season-best height with the 11-0 and came in sixth place.
A former lacrosse player and one of the top students in his class, Gevinski is in his third year of pole vaulting. He said this was only his second or third competition of the indoor season and was approaching it as preparation for the spring season.
What is the attraction to pole vaulting?
“It’s definitely a unique sport,” Gevinski said. “It looks really physical, but it’s very mental.”
Shoreham junior Ryan Leda, competing in his own gym, has gone as high as 12-0 this season. On Wednesday, though, he did not clear a height, nipping the bar on the way down on his third try at 11-0.
Season-best height for Lindell. Shoreham senior Hayley Lindell equaled her season-best of 9-6 in the girls pole vault, bringing her eighth place. She cleared her first three vaults at 8-6, 9-0 and 9-6 before hitting a wall at 10-0.
“I’m not disappointed, but not overly thrilled, either,” said Lindell, who was seeded seventh.
The top honors went to Commack senior Amanda McNelis, who lived up to her top seeding and was assured of first place on only her second vault of the evening, at 11-0. She entered the competition at 10-6. With spectators providing rhythmic clapping, McNelis made 12-0 on her third try.
Following McNelis were Half Hollow Hills West senior Julia Nomberg (10-6), Smithtown East senior Kylie Strzelczyk (10-3) and Longwood sophomore Violet Drinkwater (10-3).
Photo caption: Riverhead senior Kyle Gevinski equaled his season-best height of 11 feet and came in sixth place in the state qualifier. (Credit: Garret Meade)