A little friendly competition
By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Mike Brock was losing it.
The state meet was still just a dream for the struggling River Ridge pole vaulter as the sun set at the Class 4A, Region 2 meet at Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. So why was teammate Bryan Gibson doing so well?
Brock was the Sunshine Athletic Conference and district champion, yet it was Gibson who was the surprise of the meet, steadily advancing through the pole vault competition and earning a berth in the state meet.
That's when Brock woke up.
"I didn't want to be beat by him," he said.
Which is why, in the biggest surprise in Pasco County track and field this season, both will compete in the pole vault in Saturday's Class 4A Florida Finals at Coral Springs High's Jim Caldwell Field.
Brock won the regional title with a leap of 13 feet, 6 inches, but it would have been an upset had he not advanced to state. Gibson, on the other hand, was not favored to advance. His best leap had been 11-6. Yet he managed to do a foot better, leaping 12-6 to clinch fourth place.
"It was a pleasant surprise," River Ridge coach Brian Colding said. "Was it a total stunner? No. He and Brock are a lot alike. They love to compete and whatever the competition is they don't want to be outdone."
Which explains why Brock didn't stop when he pulled off a leap of 13, while everyone else did.
"When those other guys bailed out and said, 'We're done, we're going to state,' Brock looked at me and said, 'I want to win this outright,"' Colding said. "He could have gotten 13-1 but he went to the next regular height, 13-6, cleared it.
"At every meet, it seems he's done what he had to do. I think when it gets right down to the nitty-gritty of competition, Brock is always going to be there because he's done it all year."
Brock and Gibson will have to reach new heights to compete for the 4A state title. South Lake's Garrett Penton's season-best is 15-7.
Brock said he isn't surprised Gibson made it.
"I knew he had a shot," Brock said. "The last two weeks he's been jumping up there. He had more confidence than me. He was jumping real good (at regionals) and I was jumping horrible. I was thinking too much about it."
Yet is was Gibson who helped settle Brock down. "That's why we push each other," Brock said.
Said Gibson: "He's competitive like that."
Gibson said he also knew he could make it to state.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "I wasn't really surprised. In the past couple of weeks I had been doing 12-6 in practice and this week I cleared 13-6 in practice, so I think I can do good at state."
Brock's prowess in the pole vault has been apparent all season, but Colding said don't underestimate Gibson, either.
"He is just a great athlete," Colding said. "One day off to the side of practice he just picked up a discus and I said, 'Gibson, throw it back,' and he hurled it like 100 feet. I just looked at him and asked, 'Have you ever thrown that?' And he said maybe in middle school.
"That's just the kind of athlete he is. He can run the hurdles. If I asked him to run the 800 he can. If I asked him to run the 400 he can. He can do anything."
Both Brock and Gibson said their friendship has helped them excel at one of the most difficult events in track. Their goals on Saturday will be the same: To place in the top eight and medal.
Brock, who hopes to vault at South Florida next season, has been hitting 14 in practice and just grazed the bar at 14-6. Gibson recently reached 13-6.
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