Dale Stelting has been coaching pole vaulters at Columbus North for 25 years, including girls the past half of that tenure, and he has no doubt who is the best female he’s coached.
Junior Katrina May set the school record earlier this season, and Saturday, she’ll compete in her second consecutive Girls Track and Field State Finals at Indiana University.
“Katrina is definitely performing at a much higher level,” Stelting said. “She’s cleared 11 feet or better more times than any other vaulter I’ve had on the girls side.”
Early in the season, May went a personal-best 11-6 to set the school record. Last week, she went 11-3 to win the Shelbyville Regional for the second straight year.
“The beginning of the season was great,” May said. “I improved a lot at first, and then I had a little bit of a slump. But my practices have been getting a lot better. I’ve come up a lot in the last two meets, and I’m expecting to go pretty high this (state) meet.”
May, who tied for 16th at state last season, is tied for the No. 6 seed this year.
“I wasn’t seeded as high last year, so there’s a little bit more pressure going in,” May said. “But I think I have more confidence than I did last year, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
“I like the fact that she’s a junior because she can go there and know that it’s not her last meet as a high school vaulter,” Stelting said. “The pressure is not on her to do something special, even though the potential is there.”
May is no stranger to the big stage. She’s been to the state gymnastics meet the past three years and has led the Bull Dogs to a third-place team finish the past two seasons. She has won the regional all-around title the past two years.
“She’s a great kid, and she works really hard,” North head track coach Lou Sipe said. “She has great upper-body strength, which is very crucial in pole vault. She has great body control in the air. The gymnastics is a great building block for her.”
While she has trained almost exclusively for gymnastics the past two summers and falls, May plans to do a little more pole vaulting this offseason. She hasn’t competed in an indoor track meet since those have been during gymnastics season, but that may change next winter.
“I made a deal with my gymnastics coach,” May said. “I’m going to compete in a couple indoor meets, as well as do gymnastics in high school. Hopefully, I can compete in the indoor state meet, but it tends to be on the same day as the gymnastics state meet, so we’ll see how that schedule comes out.”
North figures to be a contender for a state gymnastics title next season. With the top three seeds in this year’s pole vault graduating, May could also be a title contender in that, as well.
“I’m really looking forward to next year,” May said. “We have our top three girls in gymnastics coming back, which is great, and we have some underclassmen that are going to step up, so I think our chances at a state title are pretty good. As far as track goes, I think that if I can get some practice in in the offseason, especially indoors, I’ll have a great chance at placing at state.”
May plans to continue pole vaulting in college. She wants to go into engineering and has looked at several colleges, including Vanderbilt and Rose-Hulman.
Angola’s Kennedy Trine is the top seed for Saturday at 12-6. May and Brown County senior Emily Brady are in a three-way tie for sixth at 11-3, and Columbus East senior Emily Clancy is tied for 16th at 10-6.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” May said. “The top three girls are going above 12, so I’m not sure that I can place top three, but I’m definitely looking at placing top five. In practice, I’ve been improving quite a lot, changing poles, so there are a lot of improvements that have been made that will allow me to go higher.”
“Katrina is ready to step it up to a different level,” Stelting said. “I know that in my soul. She is showing us a lot more than 11-3 in most of her clearances. I think 12-0 is there. I don’t want to predict it, but it very easily could happen.”
What: Boys and Girls Track and Field State Finals
When: 3 p.m. Friday (boys) and 3 p.m. Saturday (girls)
Where: Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex, Indiana University
Area boys qualifiers: Columbus North’s Chase Ballard and Seth Williams (3,200 meters), Mitchell Burton (long jump). Trent Larson (400) and Joe Wright (800), Columbus East’s Rhett Myers (shot put and discus), Jennings County’s Zach Miller (long jump) and Wes Furgason (high jump) and Seymour’s Seth Ragon (high jump)
Area girls qualifiers: Columbus North’s Katrina May (pole vault), Debie Gedeon (100-meter hurdles), Sierra Lax (1,600 and 3,200), Olivia Malone (300 hurdles) and Rachel Brougher (3,200); Columbus East’s Emily Clancy (pole vault); Jennings County’s Keri Ertel (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Justine Corya (100 and 200), Brown County’s Emily Brady (pole vault) and Seymour’s Megan Winter (1,600)
Admission: $10 both days