Clark looks to break through

Blair Oaks’ Jessica Clark completes her vault during last year’s Class 2 state championship. Clark was second each of the last two years.

Blair Oaks’ Jessica Clark completes her vault during last year’s Class 2 state championship. Clark was second each of the last two years. Photo by News Tribune.

Jessica Clark has come oh-so-close to the ultimate prize.

After collecting a pair of second-place finishes in the pole vault in 2011 and 2012, the Blair Oaks junior wants that elusive state title.

“I definitely won’t be happy if I don’t win,” Clark said as prepared for this weekend’s Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3-4 Track and Field Championships at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

Clark has competed at the Class 2 level the past two seasons before Blair Oaks made the jump to Class 3 this spring.

“It’s going to be different for Jessica, just because there’s more girls around her same talent level,” Blair Oaks assistant coach Nathan Holtmeyer said. “She’s a very good competitor, so I think we’ll be OK.”

Clark is the No. 2 seed heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. final with a qualifying vault of 11 feet, 3 inches. St. Clair’s Emily Presley is the top seed with a vault of 11-6. The two were paired up in the same sectional last weekend at Ozark.

The sectional results, and thus state qualifying marks, were a reversal of what happened the weekend before at the district meet, where Clark took first with a vault of 10-6. Presley cleared that same height, but only after two misses.

“I believe I will (beat her),” Clark said. “I’m going to try to win, but I’ve tried that every year and it hasn’t happened. Hopefully this year is the year.”

Clark, whose personal record is an 11-6 vault last season at sectionals, is hoping to top that at the state meet.

“My goal is to jump 11-9 to PR,” she said. “I’ve worked hard this winter and hopefully it pays off.”

Added Holtmeyer: “She’s expecting to jump a certain height (11-9). In doing so, you’re going to win state. She’s competing against herself, and by doing that, she’s going to have success.”

Clark vaulted 10-9 as a freshman to take second at the state meet, finishing behind South Shelby’s Kelli Hines, who won at 11-0. Clark then vaulted 11-3 as a sophomore, losing out to Adrian’s Skyler Wooldridge, who vaulted the same height, but took fewer chances to do it.

After barely missing out her first two years in high school, a state title would have added meaning as a junior.

“Everything,” Clark said, when asked what a state title would mean to her. “It’s all I’ve really worked for. I’ve wanted it since freshman year.”

And if another runner-up finish is in the cards, Clark always has her senior year.

III

Clark isn’t Blair Oaks’ only legitimate threat to take home all-state honors, awarded to the top-eight finishers at the meet.

John Karsten is the fourth seed in the boys discus final, slated for 2 p.m. Saturday. The junior’s qualifying throw of 162-6 puts him in good shape to reach the medal stand. Maryville’s Caleb Mather is the top seed with a toss of 173-1. All three throwers ahead of Karsten are seniors, possibly opening up the door for bigger things in 2014.

“It’s just a matter of not being intimidated at all and just going through it,” Holtmeyer said of Karsten. “He’s really done a good job of staying focused the entire year. As long as he’s relaxed, he’s going to throw big.”

Amy Dorge is the fifth seed in the girls discus final, slated for 11 a.m. Saturday. The senior has a qualifying throw of 127-11. Helias’ Bre Zanders is the top seed with a toss of 137-5. Dorge took fourth in 2012 with a mark of 119-1.

“She went to state last year and had success, but she’s a senior and has a lot more pressure on her,” Holtmeyer said. “If she can control her emotions, I think she’s going to throw big.”

With the bump to Class 3, team trophy expectations have been tampered compared to years past. While there are other sprint and relay events Blair Oaks will compete in, the Falcons and Lady Falcons aren’t expected to score points in them.

“The boys have a better shot than the girls,” Holtmeyer said of team trophy aspirations. “The girls don’t have a shot. But it’s a long shot even for the boys. Our goal, as always, is to get in that top-10 spot. If we run well, I definitely think we can do that.”

The Falcons have four relay teams competing — 4x100-meter (seeded 10th), 4x200 (seeded 13th), 4x400 (seeded 15th) and 4x800 (seeded 15th).

Dominic Jamerson is seeded 13th in 100-meter dash, while Chase Duren is seeded 15th in 110-meter hurdles and 11th in the 300-meter hurdles.

The Lady Falcons are seeded 15th in the 4x100-meter relay.

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