By Kyle LoJacono
Land O’ Lakes resident Nikki Carroll won the Class 2A state pole vault championship by clearing 11-feet at the University of North Florida April 27.
The Tampa Catholic sophomore matched her personal record (PR), which she set while winning the Class 2A-District 9 championship two weeks earlier. Ransom Everglades sophomore Nati Sheppard also cleared 11, but Carroll had one fewer attempt during the meet to take the state title.
“She missed on one of her earlier attempts, and I had a clean meet,” Carroll said. “That gave me the advantage because I didn’t miss until 11-06. I missed those, but so did she. … I couldn’t believe it, and then I heard my mom screaming from the bleachers. It was such a good feeling.”
Carroll started pole vaulting the summer going into her freshman year, but a hip flexor injury kept her from competing in all but one meet last season.
She had no lingering effects from the injury this season and said she had a lot of confidence after winning districts, but the state champion suffered a setback at regionals when she took third place.
Carroll cleared 9-06 at regionals, which tied her with two other girls. She advanced because she had fewer misses than either Robinson’s Emily Vaughan and Merritt Island’s Samantha Olson.
“I had a tough day at regionals, and I practiced so hard after that,” Carroll said. “Every day between regionals and state I worked for hours.”
Carroll said she felt prepared to compete with the others who advanced to states, but had to get over some early jitters.
“I saw the heights of all the other girls going into the meet, and I was seeded almost last,” Carroll said. “I knew that I could jump high because I’d been practicing so hard since regionals, so I thought I had a chance. …When I got there I was a little nervous, but once I cleared my first height (9), I was good after that.”
Carroll said she had the goal of finishing her career with one state title but is now re-evaluating what she wants to accomplish before graduating.
“It makes me feel so good, and I have so many more goals to break now that I’ve seen what I can do,” Carroll said. “States was one of my goals that I wanted to win before I graduated, and now I want to win more than one. I still want to clear 11-07 and set a school record. That’s good motivation. I couldn’t do that at states, so I’ve got that to go for.”
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