WINSTON-SALEM – Jake Justice finally decided it was time to go to work.
Justice spent the first hour-plus at Saturday’s state 2A/1A indoor track and field championships quietly watching his fellow competitors in the pole vault. He chatted with Polk County vault coach Henry Weaver, talked with some of his rivals, occasionally glanced at some of the other events taking place.
By the time the bar reached 13 feet, six inches, only East Henderson’s Thomas Ward and Croatan’s Brendon Hodge remained from the original field.
Justice stood up, stretched, took some warmups run, removed his gray T-shirt and joined the competition.
Justice and Hodge cleared 13-6. Ward did not.
Justice cleared 14-0. Hodge did not.
Two vaults and the Polk County senior had his second consecutive state 2A/1A championship, joining John Spencer Wolfe as the only Wolverine boys to win multiple individual indoor crowns (Sean Doyle and Jacob Wolfe won three indoor relay titles, with Mitchell Brown winning two) and the only Wolverine boys with at least three state individual titles in indoor and outdoor combined.
“He deserves everything he’s gotten,” Weaver said. “He’s worked hard for it.”
“It means a lot to me,” Justice said. “I had no idea I was just the second person. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Justice, though, wasn’t done.
Weaver asked for the bar to be set at 14-7, an inch above both the school record and the championship record (state records can only be set at the state meet). Justice missed his first try, but safely cleared on his second, claiming both marks.
“It meant the world to me,” Justice said. “I’ve been working since my freshman year to get the state record.”
Justice, though, wasn’t done.
Weaver asked for the bar to be set at 14-10, the qualifying standard for the 2019 New Balance Nationals Indoor meet next month in New York City. Justice cleared the bar on his first try, screaming with joy even before he landed. He’ll make his first trip to New York to compete against the nation’s best high school vaulters.
“They told me last year that nationals was 14-4, but it was actually 14-6,” Justice said. “I cleared 14-4 last year in indoor, but I didn’t get to go to nationals. This year it means everything to me, because that’s what I was working for all this season. Every practice we put the bungee up at 14-10 just to practice at it multiple times in case I got to it at a meet.
“I finally did it, the last meet I could do it.”
Still not done, Justice took three tries at 15-1. He didn’t clear the bar on any, but that did nothing to spoil the best day of his track and field career.
Making it even more amazing – all of the accomplishments barely happened. Some four weeks ago Justice landed wrong after a practice jump, “screaming in pain” according to Weaver in suffering what proved to be a high ankle sprain. He decided not to try the long jump at Saturday’s meet despite being a contender for a medal, saving his health for his speciality event.
During Saturday’s pre-competition warmups, Justice made his first pass minus his ankle brace and told Weaver he had tweaked the angle.
“This one came with some adversity,” Weaver said.
But by day’s end the adversity had faded away, obscured in the glow of a job well done. And that’s what perhaps meant the most about the day for Justice.
“The (state champion) rings really don’t mean that much to me,” he said. “My name at the top of the list is what really means something to me. Nobody can take away this state championship away from me.
“I will always be the 2018-2019 state champion, and nobody can take that from me.”
POLK COUNTY STATE INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONS
– Hanna O’Brien, 55-meter adaptive dash, 2015
– Jennifer Dimsdale, 1000 meters, 1997/1998; 1 mile, 1997
– Karen Godlock, 1000 yards, 1991; 1 mile, 1992/1993; 2 mile, 1992/1993
– Jake Justice, pole vault, 2018/2019
– John Wolfe, 1000 meters, 2008; 1 mile, 2009
– Polk County, 4×400-meter relay, 2015 (Sean Doyle, Jacob Wolfe, Caleb Brown, Eli Hall)
– Polk County, 4×800 meter relay, 2015 (Sean Doyle, Mitchell Brown, Caleb Brown, Jacob Wolfe); 2016 (Sean Doyle, Mitchell Brown, Jeremy Allsbrook, Jacob Wolfe)