Joey Walker of Jonathan Alder clears 6-8 during the Division II state track and field meet on Saturday at Pickerington North High School. Walker won the state title. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
When Joey Walker stepped up to the bar during the high jump event at the Division II state track meet at Pickerington North High School Saturday, he had never cleared a height of 6-5.
The junior jumper from Jonathan Alder went into the meet with a 6-4 jump at the regional.
That put him in the middle of the pack for the state meet.
However, a perfect approach launched him to a height of 6-8 and a state championship.
Walker said he has no idea how he was able to add three inches to his personal best effort.
“I don’t really know honestly,” he said. “The weather was perfect and last week at practice I had been clearing higher heights than usual.
“I think I just stepped up when I needed to.”
Walker passed on the opening height of 6-0 and cleared 6-2 on his first attempt.
The leap was enough to whittle the field of 19 down to eight. The bar moved to 6-4. Walker had his first hiccup of the day, failing to clear the height on his first attempt.
He found success on try No. 2 as the field shrank to seven jumpers.
Walker’s season looked like it was coming to a close when the bar went to 6-5.
He failed on his first attempt and just clipped the bar on his second try.
On his third and final leap, the junior cleared the height for the first time in competition, putting him in the top four.
The leap gave Walker the confidence needed to clear 6-6 and 6-8 on his first attempts.
He said it was all about his approach.
“I just got that perfect approach when I cleared 6-5 and it just felt right, “ he said. “I just mimicked that every time and it worked.”
Walker said it’s is a “crazy” feeling to be a state champion.
“I never thought I would be a state champion in my junior year and it feels great,” he said.
The Lady Pioneers’ Morgan Hicks had already been to the awards podium early in the state meet with her 4×800 relay team on Friday.
She added to her success on Saturday.
She placed fifth during the 3200-meter race.
Hicks went into the state meet with a second fastest time out of regionals with a 10:46.
However, with temperatures approaching 90 degrees at the start of the race, the entire field turned in slower times than usual.
Hicks stayed with the lead pack through the opening two laps.
By the third lap, the front of the pack started to separate from the others as runners settled into their positions.
Hicks was in fourth place at that time.
She held on to the position through the majority of the race.
However, a strong kick from the runner to her rear with 400 meters remaining bumped Hicks down to fifth place as she finished with a time of 11:10.97.
JA’s Morgan Hicks competes in the Division II girls state 3200 run at Pickerington North. She placed fifth in the event. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)