In a matter of months Nicolette Gordon has gone from knowing nothing at all about pole vaulting to become one of the best in the state in her classification. The Chattanooga Christian School junior took up the sport only after two knee surgeries forced her to end an eight-year gymnastics career.
She announced herself as a serious state contender Friday by clearing a career-best 11 feet, 6 inches to win the event at the Little Caesar's Track and Field Championships, formerly known as the Best of Preps meet, at Red Bank High School.
"I really never knew anything about the sport until last fall," said Gordon, whose previous best was 10-9 and who began this season able to clear only 8-6. "I knew I could either go back to gymnastics and be afraid of another injury all the time, or just try something new. Pole vault was one of the sports that looked like a good transition from gymnastics, so I decided to start working at it."
Many of the athletes competing Friday used the meet as a way to tune up for the state qualifying meets that are just a couple of weeks away. But Gordon decided to push herself and wound up notching her first win over Baylor's Kate Kaufman, who has long been the standard for area pole vaulters. Kaufman finished second, clearing 11 feet.
"I can't really explain it. I just felt confident today," Gordon said. "I couldn't be happier with how I did, and it certainly gives me a lot of confidence to compete with Kate."
Bradley Central senior Harold Smith continued to set the pace among area 800- and 1600-meter runners. He won both of those events, as did Signal Mountain's Mallory Young, who was dominant in the girls' races.
"It always helps to have someone to push me," Smith said. "I haven't really had that much at a lot of our competitions this season, but we're getting to some meets now where I know I will. I feel good because today was my best time of the year (4:29.95 in the 1600 and 1:56.28 in the 800) and I still feel like I haven't reached my peak yet."
With Signal Mountain sprinter McKenzie Ethridge not competing because of illness, Tyner freshman Alexis Wilson took advantage by winning the 100 and 200 meters and helping the Lady Rams win the 4x100 relay as well.
"She's battled some nagging injuries most of the season, but she's getting healthy at the right time now," Tyner coach Steve Plumlee said. "She's just getting stronger and better and could do some really special things by the state meet."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...