BATON ROUGE – Before the start of Saturday’s LHSAA Track and Field state championships Clayton Simms of Live Oak couldn’t stop remarking about how deep the Class 5A pole vault competition was going to be.
Never he did envision himself emerging from such a group victorious.
But, that’s exactly what he did.
Simms overcame a span of a weeks of inconsistent performances to put it all together Saturday to win the Class 5A state pole vault title with a clearance of 15 feet, 5 ¾ inches at the LSU’s Carl Maddox Fieldhouse.
“I knew the competition would be really good,” Simms said. “I was looking around and was saying, ‘this guy’s good, this guy’s good’. As long as I stayed focused and jumped how I should then everything should be OK. The confidence wasn’t that I would win this at all after the outdoor season I had. I guess it all came together.”
Live Oak track coach Brett Baker said Simms is the school’s first male outdoor state track champion and his ability to rise the occasion couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The past few weeks he struggled and hadn’t been consistent on his jumps, not getting the heights he wanted,” Baker said. “We talked about how those meets really didn’t care. This is the one that counts; just getting to the state meet and to go win the thing. I’m so proud of him.”
It completed quite a transformation for Simms, who began pole vaulting last year for the first time where he didn’t advance beyond the regional round.
A year later Simms swept both the state indoor and outdoor championships.
“I didn’t think I’d be anywhere near here,” Simms said. “We joked about jumping the heights I’m jumping now.”
The day began with the LHSAA moving the pole vault competition, along with the several other events, into the Maddox Fieldhouse because on inclement weather.
Although he looked forward to jumping in his first state outdoor meet at Bernie Moore Track Stadium, Simms flourished in the same venue he captured the state indoors crown three months before.
“It’s a great facility and I love jumping here,” Simms said of the Maddox Fieldhouse. “I did want to jump outdoors. You can’t do anything about it. I’m just happy I came home with a gold medal.”
Walker’s Blaze Hayden was also a part of the early competition, but no-heighted and was eliminated before Simms got started at 14 feet.
By the time Simms joined the competition he was one of seven jumpers which dwindled to four at 14-6, three at 15 and finally two with Simms and Hammond’s Beau Domingue still standing.
Simms made his first attempt at 14, 14-6, 15 and 15-5 ¾, taking the lead in the competition when Domingue and Lafayette’s Elijah Odinet both suffered misses at 15 feet.
Odinet was out of the race with three misses at 15-5 ¾, while Simms and Domingue each cleared the bar at on their first attempts.
“There was a point when I realized I thought I was winning,” Simms said. “I just had to make sure that I didn’t miss too many bars and just maintain it.”
Simms and Domingue, which defeated him the week before in regional competition, each missed three times at 16 feet.
Those guys had been very consistent,” Baker said of Domingue and Odinet. “When I saw the kids from Lafayette and Hammond missed their first two jumps, I thought he had a chance to win it.”
Simms’ state title provided Live Oak with 10 points and a tie for 19th place with St. Augustine in the team standings. Catholic High won the meet with 60 points.
High jumper Lillie Waguespack of Walker High was fifth with a 5-foot clearance to lead Walker High’s entries.
The Lady Cats’ 4x200 relay team of Daelyn Lake, Ralyn Johnson, Kaitlyn Hayes and Tarondia Harold were seventh (1:45.85) and the same unit placed eight in the 4x100 relay event (50.91).
Hayes was eighth (16-4 ¾) and Denham Springs’ Cailey Aucoin of Denham Springs was seventh in the javelin (104-7).