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Banner day for county vaulters

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2002

CORAL SPRINGS -- Hillsborough County rules. The pole vault, that is.

CORAL SPRINGS -- Hillsborough County rules. The pole vault, that is.

County competitors won two state championships and five medals total in the event at Saturday's state meet. Gaither's Dara Altman and Bloomingdale's Jon Miller earned gold, and Riverview's Megan Malone silver at Jim Caldwell Field. Wharton's Natalie Moser placed fourth and Riverview's Katie Fowke seventh.

Wharton's Kendra Smith won gold in the triple jump and Leto's Coe Fedorenko silver in the 3,200 meters to complete a banner night for the county.

Smith saved her best for last. She won her first state title with a school-record leap of 39 feet, 111/2 inches, in what she said is likely the last track meet of her career. The decorated senior said she decided a month ago to turn down a track scholarship to Florida State so she could concentrate on her other loves, dance and theater, at the school.

"I just kind of decided that I always put my dance on hold and my drama on hold for track," said Smith, who earned five state medals and seven school records in her career. "I decided that I really want to take those up in college.

"Winning my first state title in the triple jump is the icing on the cake for me. Track has been a great experience for me, but my heart is in other things now."

Altman, Gaither's defending state champion, finished second at last week's region meet to Malone -- the first meet she didn't win this year. That left Altman frustrated and nervous entering Saturday's meet, but motivated as well.

"I was upset I got second place at regionals," Altman said. "So I was a little worried. But because of that, this win means a lot more to me than it would have otherwise."

Her winning leap was 11-6, and it was the 10th meet Altman has won this season. She won the silver as a sophomore and the gold as a junior, so the pressure was on her to repeat as state champion.

"It's a relief, to be honest," Altman said. "This year there was so much pressure on me, all my friends are supporting me but I always kept hearing, "Are you going to win state this year? Are you?' And I'd say, "Hopefully, but I don't know."'

As for Miller, he set the Hillsborough County pole vault record with a leap of 15-71/4 earlier this season. Saturday, his state-title leap was 15-3. But he was so nervous he started with a rather pedestrian height of 12-6.

Finishing runner-up far exceeded the expectations of Riverview's Malone, especially after the junior finished seventh last year.

"(I feel) excellent," Malone said. "I cannot tell you how good it feels. Coming in second to Dara is not bad at all."

Wharton's Moser leaped 10-6 and Riverview's Fowke 9-6.

Leto's Fedorenko said he knew he was "all raced out" this year after the first leg of the 3,200. "I wanted the track to open up and swallow me whole," he said. But he still gutted out second place with a time of 9:40.08.

Wharton's Laphonso Ray was fifth in the 100 (10.96) and seventh in the 200 (22.33). Leto's Jeanette Daniels was fifth in the discus (125-8). Gaither's Natalie Caldwell was sixth in the long jump (18-10 1/4). Placing seventh was Plant City's Sara Hall in the 1,600 (5:16.64), Riverview's Brandon Sherrod in the high jump (6-8) and Hillsborough's Marlon Wood in the long jump (22-10). Hillsborough's Elijah Dukes was eighth in the shot put (50-103/4).

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