Shafer vaults to fourth place

"TACOMA - It wasn't like Erin Shafer needed any other distractions.And yet, there was a huge one just a few yards away to her right as the Olympic High School junior prepared for each of her attempts to pole vault a career-best 12 feet Friday during the girls Star Track XIX finals at Lincoln Bowl.A bank of speakers, sitting adjacent to the track, blared constantly, at concert levels, with announcements and updates of other events being competed during the two-day Class 3A-4A meet.For even the most casual observer, it was impossible to escape. For Shafer, it was just one more thing.It was irritating, Shafer said after her 10-foot-6 vault left her in fourth place, 10 inches behind Richland's record-setting Sara Rowse (who bettered her own all-time state record of 12-3 by an inch). Managing a thin smile, she added, Those guys need to stop talking.Even without the inescapable PA announcements, which had an annoying penchant for starting just as Shafer was about to start her approach, she had plenty to think about. She was competing for the first time with a new pole after breaking her regular one less than a week earlier. She had four days to get accustomed to the new shaft, which was 4 inches shorter than her old one.I wanted to try another one, too, Shafer said of the interim between her West Central District championship vault of 11-3 May 19 and her Star Track performance, but there just wasn't time.It was kind of different, but I didn't have any problem with using it, she said of the replacement pole. I think I could've done 12 feet today if I'd had my other one.Olympic High School coach Joel Grindeland said the result had to come as somewhat of a disappointment to Shafer, but pointed out she's got a lot of competition still ahead of her.She's a junior, so she'll be back, he said. The fun part is that she had a taste last year, and she had a better taste this year. She went from eighth (as a sophomore) to fourth this year, and she's got next year to look forward to.Grindeland said the way the event set up Friday was yet another distraction for Shafer. Vaulting started at 6 p.m., but she passed through the first several heights, leaving nearly two and a half hours of dead time between her warm-ups and her first actual vault - when she easily cleared 10 feet.That's a long time to wait, Grindeland said, shaking his head.Even with perfect conditions, there might've been no beating Rowse, the muscular 19-year-old senior who was competing in the prep ranks for the first year. She came in as the top district-level qualifier with her 12-3 - a full foot better than No. 2-seeded Shafer.But Shafer appeared to be sailing along, experiencing little trouble with the first three heights as the field thinned.When she got to 11-0, though, things unraveled. Visibly distracted by the PA announcements, she hit the bar with her legs on her first two tries, then brushed it as she went over on her third, knocking it down and her out.Gig Harbor's Katie Hansen went out at 10-9, leaving only fourth-seeded Katie Heaton of Eastlake to try and stay with Rowse. She couldn't do it - Rowse didn't miss until her first two tries at 12-0, and took pot-shots at the all-time state best at her leisure.Shafer's 10-6 did tie the old state mark set in 2000 by Bellarmine's Brenda Zittle.Considering all she had to contend with, I thought she did very well, Grindeland said. She only had three days of jumping with this pole, and she was still able to hang in there.She's frustrated right now, but she's shown steady improvement, Grindeland said. And we'll get her in some Junior Olympics meets this summer to see if we can't get that improvement to continue.Shafer said she can't wait to begin.I want to (compete) again as soon as possible, she said. This is over - the past is the past. I can still think about next year.Shafer's performance highlighted the showing of a small Bremerton-area contingent in the 4A girls meet. Central Kitsap junior Cathleen Willy placed 12th in the 3,200, in which Enumclaw's Alison Tubbs shattered the state record by more than 6 seconds. CK's Audrey Wicks (high jump) and Bremerton's Josie Lavin (800) both were eliminated in their event preliminaries. "

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