By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
BRADENTON — Charlotte pole vaulter Natalie Jen went under her tent, put her sweatshirt on and let the tears flow.
For a girl who just finished runner-up in Class 3A for the second straight year, she was surprisingly upset, but only because she pushes herself to be the best in the state.
Jen lost to Merritt Island’s Abigail Olson on a tiebreaker for the state title. Both jumped 3.50 meters (11 feet, six inches) but Olson did it without a miss while Jen missed her first attempt, giving Olson the title.
It was a high-pressure finish between the two, who pushed the bar to 12 feet to determine the winner. Both girls missed all three attempts on the highest bar, resulting in the tiebreaker that came down to missed attempts at 11-6.
“I beat myself up over things that I really want. I really wanted the title. I really, really wanted it,” Jen said through tears. “On the last jump, I sort of knew I wasn’t going to do it so I didn’t really give it my all on my last two steps. I knew it was not happening and I gave up on it.”
Jen’s jump of 11-6 tied the school record she set at last week’s regional meet. But Jen admitted nerves got to her throughout the day, evident by her uncharacteristic misses, including when the bar was set at just 10 feet.
“It was silly things I messed up. When I was just standing there I didn’t feel nervous at all, but when I went to go I did,” Jen said. “When I didn’t get 10 feet the first time, it kind of threw me off.”
Jen was just one of a host of medalists for the Tarpons on Saturday.
Dana Donovan placed fourth in the 100 meters (12.30 seconds), D’Vonte Price placed sixth in the 110 hurdles (14.61) and Britney Augustin finished the day off for Charlotte with a seventh in the 300 hurdles (44.38).
Charlotte’s 4×100 relays teams also medaled, with the boys’ quartet of Andrew Grace, Savorion Warren, Ny Harvey and Price finishing sixth (42.55), the best in school history. Donovan and Augustin ran on the girls group with Kaitlyn Chavarria and Jaliyah Underwood, with Donovan blowing past three runners on the final leg to finish fourth in 47.79 seconds, just 0.05 off the school record the girls set at last week’s regional meet.
“It was just an unbelievable effort from all these guys,” Charlotte coach Jerry Voss said. “What a cool day. We came up here and everybody did what they were supposed to do. When you come up here and do what you’re supposed to, you get this type of effort. You can’t ask for anything else as a coach.”
North Port pole vaulter Morgan Gloster became the first Bobcat to medal in back-to-back years in the girls state championship. She placed sixth in Class 4A, losing a five-way tiebreaker for third.
“I still improved a lot,” Gloster said of finishing sixth again. “The competition was tough. Everybody was like the same.”
Lemon Bay’s 4×800 relay team highlighted the Manta Rays’ trip to state. The quartet of Chloe Mitchell, Kelsi Ogilvie, Kristen Robinson and Maddison Welch placed sixth in Class 2A with a time of nine minutes, 56.58 seconds.
It didn’t look like the team would even medal early on in the race, but thanks to speedy performances by Robinson and Welch, the quartet made it’s way to sixth. Welch kicked it into high gear over the final 200 meters, passing three girls to beat three other teams by less than two seconds.
“Kristen did a great job and she knows where to give me the baton,” Welch said. “My biggest thing is, when I get the baton, I want it on a ponytail so I can grab it and go and that’s what happened. I just had to come from behind and hang on to the finish.”
Ogilvie also competed in the 1600 meters, placing 12th (5:29.99). For Lemon Bay’s boys, Brayden Curry finished 11th in the shot put.
T.J. Luther was Port Charlotte’s lone state representative, just missing out on a medal with a ninth-place finish in the triple jump. He jumped 13.54 meters, 0.02 behind eight-place finisher Ketrie Pierre out of Palm Beach Lakes.