WINSTON-SALEM – Disappointment quickly hardened into determination for Troy Lieberman.
Minutes after placing second in the pole vault at Friday’s state 2A/1A indoor track and field championships, Lieberman already had his sights set on the outdoor season and his goals of a state championship and qualifying for national competition.
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“I’ll get there,” Lieberman said. “I’ll get there in outdoor.”
Lieberman’s performance led a good day for Polk County’s program. The Wolverines had five individual medalists, with the Polk County girls placing seventh in the team standings and the Wolverine boys placing 14th in the meet, which ran almost six hours due to the sizable number of qualifiers.
Jake Justice followed Lieberman with a third in the pole vault, with Lauren Ketwitz taking fourth in the girls vault. Izzy Jackson placed fourth in the 500 meters and India Godlock added a fourth in the 1000 meters for Polk County’s five podium finishes.
“After the success we’ve had the past three years, with a team that is rebuilding, to do this well is a positive. A definitive positive,” said Polk County head coach Alan Peoples, who also served as the assistant meet director. “For the girls, seventh is even better than we hoped. And with so few seniors this year, that’s sweet.”
Only seven of Polk County’s 17 qualifiers that competed Friday were seniors. One of those is Lieberman, who surpassed the state record of 13-0 in the event (those records can only be set at the state meet) while battling Surry Central’s Tyler Fitzgerald.
Justice and Madison’s Josh Yount each dropped out of the competition at 13 feet, leaving Lieberman and Fitzgerald in a head-to-head matchup. Both cleared 13-6, then each missed on their first two tries at 14 feet. Lieberman came ever so close to clearing 14 feet on his second vault, just nicking the bar as he descended.
Fitzgerald made his third attempt at 14 feet the winner, clearing the height. Lieberman missed his final try at 14 feet, giving Fitzgerald the title. Fitzgerald then cleared 14-6 to establish a new state standard.
“I had it,” Lieberman said of his second try at 14 feet. “I just came down on it.”
Lieberman and Justice accounted for all of Polk County’s team points in the boys competition, which North Brunswick won for the fourth straight year. Caleb Potter set a personal record of 10:34.77 in placing 14th in the 3200-meter run, Zach Foy took 18th in the shot put with a throw of 38-1 and the boys 4×400-meter relay squad placed 14th with a time of 3:48.05.
Ketwitz, Godlock and Jackson led a solid effort for the Polk girls, who had the second-best showing for any Western North Carolina team (Brevard placed sixth). T.W. Andrews ended the three-year reign of Cummings to win the girls team crown for the first time.
The Wolverine 4×400-meter team just missed a medal, placing fifth, while Micheala Nelon took ninth in the shot put. Marissa Longshore took 17th and Reese Alley finished 20th in the long jump, with Alley, who battled an injury throughout the day, taking 15th in the triple jump. Reagan Waddell placed 15th in the shot put and Kimberly Williams finished 17th as the Wolverines qualified three girls in the event for the first time.
“It was a very good day. It’s always a good day when you bring 17 athletes to a state final,” said Polk County assistant coach Jenny Wolfe. “So many kids placed above where they were ranked, and you can’t ask for any better than that. Every kid raced.”