JEFFERSON – Mason Hamrick knew what kind of battle he was about to endure when the Class AA state pole vault final came down him and Riverside Military’s Skyler Toney.
After all, Toney had already beaten him twice this season, including last week’s sectionals that gave the Eagles senior the top seed entering Thursday’s Georgia Olympics state championships at Jefferson Memorial Stadium.
Nothing that a little home-field advantage couldn’t fix.
After two rounds of head-to-head competition with all other pole vaulters eliminated, Hamrick cleared 14 feet, six inches to defeat Toney and win the state title, then broke his personal record with a successful 15-foot attempt on his first try.
“I told myself weeks ago – I’ve done it once and lost last year. This is my year for redemption,” Hamrick said. “There’s nothing that’s going to get in the way of me winning another state championship.”
After the competition was cut to just two finalists after the 13-6 round, the Dragons junior needed two tries to reach 14 feet, a height Toney cleared on his first attempt to break his own PR and set a new Riverside record.
Hamrick quickly put himself in championship contention by clearing 14-6 on his first attempt, forcing Toney to try to break again his PR to stay in the hunt.
He came close on all three attempts, but couldn’t keep the bar in place.
“It just wasn’t enough,” said Toney, who ends his track career with a pair of state runner-up finishes. “(Hamrick) came ready to jump.”
Hamrick was seeded third overall entering the state meet with a sectionals vault of 13 feet, six inches behind Toney’s mark.
He didn’t think 15 feet was even a possibility until his senior season.
“That was something that I didn’t think I could do,” Hamrick said. “But somebody upstairs was watching me and helped me out. I couldn’t have done it without God.”
Jefferson's James Howard finished third with 13 feet. Rigby Hoffman finished ninth for Riverside.
Hamrick was one of two area pole vaulters to win a state title Thursday. Buford’s David Curry took home the Class AAA title with a 14-foot attempt.
He was the only competitor to clear the mark. His PR is 14-6, but he was unable to clear the 14-2 mark Thursday.
“I just couldn’t get it,” said Curry, who placed fifth in Class AA last year. “I was having a little difficulty with the pole situation, and just going through poles. But I’m glad I won, and I’m very thankful.”
North Hall recorded a pair of third-place finishes in Class AAA events, as Patrick Chappell took third place in the shot put with a distance of 52-4 and Drew Bryant received the bronze in the discus with a heave of 149 feet.
Chappell, the only thrower to utilize the spinning shot put form in the competition, recorded a PR, despite scratching on all three of finals attempts.
He was two feet off state champion Daniel Haugh of St. Pius X, who also won the Class AAA discus.
“I’m perfectly fine with that,” Chappell said. “(Haugh) does it year-round, he’s expected to win. I only do it three months out of the year.”
Destin Bennett placed fifth in the discus for the Trojans with a best throw of 146-5, and Bryce Schuebert wrapped up North Hall’s first day of state with a ninth-place finish in the 1600.
Gainesville’s lone field event representative, Colton Quinones, barely missed a spot on the podium with his ninth-place finish in the Class AAAAA discus.
Commerce was well-represented in the first day by Dekerrio Ramsey, who won the Class A public triple jump with a measurement of 44-2. He also placed second in the long jump with a leap of 21-1. Teammate Micah Eason gave the Tigers another victory with his first-place shot put throw of 48-2.5.
White County’s Dalton Whitfield finished third in the Class AAA discus (143-7), while Jackson County’s Layson Giles placed sixth in the high jump (6-0), and Dawson County’s Cory Jenkins was 10th in the pole vault (12 feet).
Habersham Central’s Zach Rhyneer finished seventh in the Class AAAAAA shot put (49-11.5).
Jefferson added two more top-10 finishes on the day in the Class AA shot put, led by Ethan Hix in fourth (46-10.5) and Conner Nations in sixth (46-10-5).
Lumpkin County picked up its only top-10 finish with Julian Codina’s seventh-place finish in the pole vault (11-0).
Friday’s events include qualifying heats for all running events, as well as the 3200 final.