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Malquist sets state record at Georgia Olympics
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JEFFERSON— At a little after 6 p.m Thursday, Tyler Porter from Jefferson broke the all-classification state record pole vault with a height of 16-feet, 7 1/4-inches en route to winning the Class AA championship at the GHSA boys state track and field championships in Jefferson.

Almost two hours later, Gainesville’s Paul Malquist broke that record with a vault of 16-8 to win the Class AAA state title.

Malquist almost didn’t get a chance to try for the record, or even place in the meet. Electing not to start until after the lower heights had already been cleared and the field had thinned, Malquist came in for his first vault at 15 feet.

He scratched in the first two of his three opportunities to clear that height and on his third and final attempt, Malquist’s chest slid across the bar, sending it bouncing up and down atop the stand.

But the bar held on, and Malquist advanced.

The near miss, which would have removed Malquist from competition, turned out to be just the shock that his system needed.

“That definitely gave me a boost,” Malquist said. “I was worrying about too many things, (I was) too tense.

“But that actually helped me get back in my grove.”

Once Malquist had cleared a height of 15-6, he had already secured the state championship. But from the start, Malquist said that just winning the title wasn’t his goal.

“I didn’t even realized I’d won the meet,” he said. “All I could think was ‘16-8.’”

Malquist cleared that height on his first attempt and, after three attempts at 17 feet, finished the day with a state title and an all-class record. The win gave Gainesville 10 points, the only points for the Red Elephants on the first day of the meet. But with Malquist scheduled to compete in four other events on days two and three, that point total is sure to go up.

Also in AAA vault, Austin Eckenroth from Flowery Branch finished second to Malquist with a vault of 15 feet, tying his personal best. The sophomore is optimistic about his future at pole vault.

“I think I’ll be (vaulting) 17 (feet) by the time I graduate,” he said.

As for Porter, he showed no disappointment with losing the record so quickly after gaining it. He was the first person to congratulate Malquist after his last attempt at 17 feet.

While confident that he would win the Class AA title, Porter was not completely confident he could break the all-class record Thursday.

“I really didn’t think I was gonna do it coming into the meet,” Porter said. “It’s pole vaulting, so you never know.”

Porter was also hampered by vaulting his initial heights on a borrowed pole. Last week during a training run, Porter’s normal short-height pole snapped and he had to turn to another school to find a loan.

“We didn’t really know what to do,” Porter said. “So I just came in at 13-6 (with the borrowed pole) just to try and clear a bar and just try and win the state meet before I tried any records.

“So I cleared 15 (feet) and the other guy went out (at 13-6), so I grabbed my big stick and hoped for the best,” he added. “And the best came out of it.”

Sky Porter from Jefferson placed sixth in the pole vault with a height of 11-6, to give the Dragons 13 points in the pole vaulting event.

Also for Jefferson, Josh Kles won the AA discus title with a throw of 158-3 and followed that a few hours later by taking the AA shot put title with a toss of 56-2 1/2 to earn 20 points for the Dragons.

The discus throw was a personal best for Kles, whose previous had been 153 feet. The wins were big for Kles, who finished in fifth place in the discus last year with a throw of 145-3 and failed to place in the shot put.

In order to mentally prepare himself for the competition, the senior tried to keep things as normal as possible.

“I really just treated it like a normal day,” he said. “I played basketball before I came out here.”

Kles’ three best discus throws on the day were 153-6, 155-9 and his championship throw of 158-3.

“(That’s) the best series I’ve had all year,” Kles said.

Once he released his personal best throw, Kles said he “pretty much knew it was over.”

“I knew I could do it,” Kles said of winning the two events. “I trained hard and just came out and performed.”

The two wins earned another 20 points for Jefferson, giving them a first-place total of 33 after day one of the event.

Kles was not the only local thrower to do well Wednesday.

With a throw of 173 feet, North Hall’s Peyton Wilhoite placed third in the Class AAA discus for the second straight year. The throw improved his previous best at state by over 13 feet and earned his team six points.

Obviously disappointed with the performance, Wilhoite said simply, “It just wasn’t my day.”

However disappointing the day was for Wilhoite, the senior is optimistic about the season in general and his opportunities moving forward.

“I mean it was a really (good) season,” Wilhoite said. “(I) started the career as just something to stay in shape for football but it turned into an athletic scholarship to an SEC school at Ole Miss, so although we didn’t get exactly what we wanted in the (end of the) season, (I’ve) still got a four-to-five more year career, so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Ty McCormack added to the Trojans point total by winning the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4 minutes, 19.675 seconds, to earn his first state title.

McCormack’s main focus this season has been to improve upon his previous state time of 4:30.88, which earned him fifth place a year ago, and win a title.    

“My whole goal this year was to get a win at state,” he said. “I’ve won nationals, but never state.”

McCormack earned the Trojans 10 points, to put their day one total at 16. McCormack now sets his sights on the 3,200-meter race where he expects to set a state record.

Also placing in the state meet was Flowery Branch’s Otis Clark. By improving his qualifying jump by four inches, Clark placed third in the high jump with a leap of 6-8 on his first attempt.

Coach Jimmy Sorrels said that Clark was “fairly close” on his attempt at 6-10 and was “without a doubt” feeling pretty good about the performance.

The third-place finish earned Flowery Branch six points, to give the Falcons a total of 14 points for seventh place after the first day.

Sterling Bailey finished sixth in Class AAA shot put with a throw of 56-2 1/2, earning East Hall its only points of the day with three.

The state meet is scheduled to continue at noon today with the track events.

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