MURFREESBORO — Championships come in different packages. They can come as a complete surprise or they are totally expected.
Mt. Juliet’s Cole Shea experienced the former last year and survived the expectations Thursday morning when the senior repeated as state pole vault champion at Middle Tennessee State’s Dean Hayes Stadium.
After winning the championship last season, Shea came into this week as the favorite after posting the highest vault among the state qualifiers in the sectional meet.
“I was extremely nervous today,” Shea admitted while on his way home Thursday evening. “Last year, I didn’t expect it, (but) because (Bearden’s) Jacob Swoboda (now a Duke freshman) was hurt, I ended up winning.
“It’s definitely more stressful when you’re the favorite going into it. But it’s equally as satisfying both ways.”
Shea, whose father Greg bought a used pole vault pit and donated it to the school two years ago, said he’s only been vaulting two years and trains with Axis Athletics’ Brandon Grass at Franklin Road Academy, where Grass also serves as coach.
“I just knew if I did my own thing and didn’t let anything come over my head, I’d be okay,” Shea said after posting a vault of 15-0. “And if I did … lose, it wouldn’t be because of anything getting in my head.”
Lebanon’s Nathan Shields was fifth with a 14-0. Shea also competed in the long jump and was eighth with a leap of 22-1.5.
Shea is headed to Georgia Tech on a track-and-field scholarship and plans to become an aerospace engineer.
“I’m really excited for that,” Shea said.
Shea wasn’t the only Mt. Juliet pole vaulter. Kennedy Cavin was sixth in the girls’ meet with a 9-6. Julia Karsten was seventh in the girls’ 800 meters with a time of 2:21.17. The girls 4-by-800 relay team was eighth in 9:55.44.
It was also a busy day for Wilson Central. Sophomore Zoe Vlk was third in the girls’ discus with a 137-2 and the shot put with a 40-10.
“(She) will be a state champion in the future,” her coach, Jonathan Booher, said in a Tweet.
Kolin Miller, one day after signing a T&F scholarship with East Tennessee State, was fourth in boys’ discus with a 157-6 and eight in the shot put with a 46-4.
On the boys’ side, the 4-by-400 relay team of K.J. Laribo, Justin Smith, Grant Pody and Baylor Franklin was seventh in a school-record 3:26.52. Franklin was fifth in the 800 meters in 1:56.16. Franklin, headed to Ole Miss on a track scholarship, will graduate with five Wilson Central records – the 400, 800, 1,600, 4-by-400 and 4-by-800.
Lebanon freshman Aiden Britt was fifth in the 3,200 meters in 9:46.12. The Blue Devils’ Tay Crawford was ninth in the triple jump with a 42-10.
Across town at Adams Tennis Complex, Watertown made history by appearing in the state tennis tournament for the first time.
Senior Brian Putnam set a mark for future Purple Tigers to reach as he reached the boys’ singles round of eight before falling to Merrol Hyde eighth-grader Grant Koch 6-4, 6-0.
Tigerette teammates Kassidy Parisher and Tawny Ashworth, a sophomore and junior, respectively, fell in the girls’ doubles quarterfinals to L&N STEM freshman Abbey Lee and senior Armani Hall 6-1, 6-1.