No surrender for pole vaulter

Seven boys cleared 15 feet in the pole vault at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet Friday afternoon at Davis High to automatically qualify for the state championships. Gavin Miller was not one of them. The Lathrop junior wasn’t even close. The same can be said of his three attempts at the opening height of 12-6.

Miller shortened his approach from nine strides to six short steps, which allowed him to do nothing more than plant his pole and flop onto the mat. Six other boys also fell short of the opening height, including Vacaville’s Devin Hastings, but at least they became acquainted with the bar before packing their poles and leaving.

Gavin Miller came to the Masters meet even though he stood no chance in the pole vault with a dislocated left ankle.

The 69-mile drive from Lathrop to Davis was a waste of gas because Miller did not stand a chance. His doctor told him as much during an appointment earlier in the day. The best his doctor could offer was clearing him to walk if Miller took it easy. Trying to competing in the pole vault would certainly not rank as easy.

Miller cleared 12-7 last Friday to finish first in Division IV at the Division IV-V meet at Riverbank High. He was not satisfied with winning, however, and took a shot at 13-6. He cleared 15-3 at the Western Athletic Conference championships April 27, so he was hardly pressing his luck by going for 13-6 with nothing at stake.

“I was getting in a groove,” said Miller, who does not regret his decision to raise the bar. “Even my big pole felt small because I was having such a good day.”

Bella Vista’s Grant Hymas was one of seven automatic state qualifiers by clearing 15 feet.

Every attempt in the pole vault comes with an inherent risk, however. Miller can attest to that after landing awkwardly on his attempt at 13-6 and dislocating his left ankle. So can his father Justin, who was preparing for a USTAF Masters competition in 2021 when his pole came out of the box and the top end impaled him in the chest.

Miller is coached by his father, so Justin could have advised his son to play it safe after the doctor told Miller that a tendon in his ankle was “hanging by a thread.” Justin understood why his son had to go Friday. His mark of 15-3 vaulted Miller to No. 5 in the section rankings. He expected to qualify for the state championships.

Turlock’s Maxwell McFarlane cleared 16-3 to finish first Friday. Whitney’s Michael Payan and Del Oro’s Sam Peters were second and third, respectively, to qualify based on finish. Those three will be joined by four boys who cleared the automatic qualifying mark of 15 feet. Miller would have been a good bet to be the fifth.

Although disappointed, Miller now knows what it takes to compete with the elite. “You can do anything if you put your mind to it,” he said. “You have to keep going.”

His father could not be prouder. “I’ve been coaching a long time,” Justin said, “and I’ve never seen anyone as courageous as him.”