TOP OF THE FIELD: Brownstown pole vaulters, Seymour long jumper ready for state


A pair of pole vaulters and a long jumper will represent Jackson County in the biggest high school track and field meet of the year this weekend.

Brownstown Central senior Colton Ritz and junior Caleb Bollinger and Seymour sophomore Lance Roark will all make the trip to the Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex at Indiana University on Saturday.

Braves vaulters making history

For the first time in school history, Brownstown will have two boys in the same event at state. Both Ritz and Bollinger will compete in the pole vault.

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Ritz, who is signed to Indiana Wesleyan University, comes into the state meet in scoring position.

He’s seeded seventh of 29 vaulters, going in with a clearance of 14 feet, 6 inches. He hit that height at the Bloomington North Regional to earn the title.

While there was a scare at the regional, Ritz came up clutch to win and ensure he made it back to state.

Ritz missed his first two jumps at 13 feet before hitting his final attempt and going in to make it over 14-6.

“We sweated it out,” Ritz said. “The goal was to go in and clear 13 with a small pole. I was pretty confident with that. I knew if I hit that, I would go to state. The coaches, Caleb and I were soaking sweat. I cleared my head, and through the grace of God, I cleared the bar.”

Ritz made it to state in 2017, finishing tied for 20th at 13 feet.

“This is going to be my second go,” Ritz said. “I had my choke at state last year. I’ve got that out of the way. I feel more confident going into it. I’m ready to show them what I’ve got.”

The school record belongs to Ritz. He cleared 15 feet during the regular season at Columbus East.

He said he just got a 15-7 pole and aims to clear 16 feet.

Ritz said he has been giving Bollinger, who said is like a little brother, advice leading up to state. It will be the first time at IU for Bollinger.

“I’m telling him to stay out of his own head,” Ritz said. “The most dangerous thing a pole vaulter can do is get in his own head. If that happens, the steps can go wrong, and everything starts changing. He’s going to be in a different world, a different league. Everyone will be really good. I think he will surprise everyone there.”

Braves coach Derrick Koch has high expectations for Ritz.

“I want him to score,” Koch said. “I would love to see him go out with a PR (personal record). I want to see him go 15-6 and show how he has improved over the season.”

This postseason, Bollinger has outperformed his expectations.

With Ritz struggling at sectional and finishing runner-up at 12 feet, Bollinger took the title for the Braves by clearing 13 feet. Bollinger’s jump of the same height in Bloomington earned third place to advance to state. He’s tied for the 24 seed going into state.

“I wasn’t even thinking (winning sectional) could be a possibility,” Bollinger said. “I was just hoping I would make it out to regional. Winning the sectional title is huge for me. It was a goal for me, and to do it was just awesome.”

For Bollinger, pole vaulting is a family affair. His older brother, Jacob, went to state in the pole vault in 2016 before just missing the cut his senior season last spring.

“My sixth-grade year, I always watched my brother,” Caleb said. “He started in eighth grade. I looked up to him and thought it was really cool. My seventh-grade year, I decided to just try it out, and it went on from there.

“We had to teach ourselves at first. We didn’t have a coach. We watched YouTube videos, and my dad helped out. We didn’t really have a coach until two or three years ago.”

Bollinger said having Ritz with him at state will help ease his nerves.

“We’ve practiced and jumped together for the past three years,” Bollinger said. “To go with him, I think it will help me. He has been there before, and I haven’t. It will be nice to have him there to help me through it.”

At state, Bollinger hopes to break his PR.

“Going into the season, my goal was to clear 14 feet,” he said. “I had quite a few drawbacks due to injury. I broke my hand coming into the season, and my hamstring bothered me. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m trying to get back to where I want to be. I’m hoping to PR at state.”

Brownstown has sent a pole vaulter to state for three straight years. The Braves’ No. 3 vaulter, Luke Wood, also has been clearing around 11 feet, Koch said.

“It’s awesome that our younger guys learn from our older guys,” Koch said. “That has been what has been going on here over the past few years. I’ve been coaching for a long time, and for as long as we’ve had a pole vault pit, there have been younger guys watching the high-schoolers. After the high-schoolers practice, they start working with the middle-schoolers. I think it works great. I think that is what has made us so good.”

Frankfort senior Colton Crum, who is signed to Notre Dame, is the heavy favorite to win the pole vault, coming in with a seed mark of 17-2. Three vaulters ahead of Ritz cleared 15 feet, and the No. 2 and No. 3 hit 15-4 in regional action.

Roark making first state appearance

Lance Roark has put together an improbable long jumping season for Seymour High School.

The sophomore hasn’t lost a meet in 2018 going into state.

On top of his regular-season wins, Roark took the crown in the Hoosier Hills Conference, sectional and regional meets.

“It really wasn’t a goal,” Roark said. “I just kept jumping my best every meet. It just kind of happened.”

Roark said he started long jumping just two years ago.

“I started jumping in eighth grade,” he said. “I thought I was really good at it, so I just kept jumping.”

He enters as the 19th seed after jumping 22-3 at the regional in Bloomington.

“(Roark) has worked a lot harder this year,” Owls long jump and sprints coach Johnnie Spivey said. “He’s focused on jumping. I think everything finally clicked in his head, and he realized he can be an awesome long jumper. He is deceptively quick down the runway. We moved him to the back of the runway, and it gives his approach enough time to develop.

“It’s kind of different with him. He’s at 11 with his steps but actually starts further back than that. As soon as he hits his steps, he takes off.”

Roark said he jumped around 19 feet last season before making the jump to the 22s.

While he has had a fantastic season, Roark is still far from the school record. In 1978, the Owls’ Jay Thomas was the state champion with a jump of 23-10¼.

“Really, we just want him to set a personal record,” Spivey said. “There are two jumpers over 23 feet. Lance could hit low 23s. He has hit 22-8s and 22-9 in practice. If he could hit around 22-8 or 22-9, we would be thrilled. I think it’s all confidence. He realizes that he can do something great. If he could finish in the top nine, that would be great.”

Spivey said the sky is the limit for Roark at state and over the next two years.

Plymouth senior Nate Patterson is favored to win, coming in at 23-2½. Patterson is signed to the University of Southern California. Just two jumpers come in over 23 feet, and five inches separate 19th and fifth place.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: 2018 Boys Track and Field State Finals

When: 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex at Indiana University in Bloomington

Who: Seymour’s Lance Roark and Brownstown Central’s Colton Ritz and Caleb Bollinger

Admission: $10


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