Kennedy’s Jadon Watson, Old Tappan’s Tyler Hrbek find gold in the air by Paul Schwartz and Darren Cooper of The Record
COLUMBUS — The hardest thing for Tyler Hrbek to do was watch.
Hrbek, the NV/Old Tappan senior, won the gold medal in pole vault on jumps Saturday at the State Meet of Champions at Northern Burlington High School, as he was able to clear 15 feet on his first try.
He was one of three competitors left to try at 15-6, and had to go first. After missing on his third attempt, Hrbek watched as Simon Schenk from Princeton High School and David Bausmith from Hunterdon Central just wobbled the bar and it came down on their last tries.
“That was the worst having to sit through that,” said Hrbek grinning. “I was expecting to be last in the order and they put me first. Simon was way over, then it came down. Same thing with Davy. I was just lucky that I made the other two bars in my first attempt.”
The Northvale resident was being modest. He has been part of a large troop of Bergen County pole vaulters, male and female, who have elevated (pardon the pun) the sport to a new level.
Hrbek said he had hoped to clear 16 feet Saturday and take back the Bergen County record owned by Liam Landau from Pascack Hills (using a pole Hrbek lent him), but said his form was “ugly” Saturday and he was fortunate to clear 14-foot-6 and 15-feet.
“My technique was some of the worst that it has been in a while,” said Hrbek. “My warm ups looked better than I did in the meet. 15 feet was kind of a gross jump, but I didn’t punch it.”
Hrbek is off to compete in Nationals (another shot at the county record) and then U.Conn to pole vault.
After he finished as the top American high jumper at the Penn Relays in late April, and earned a coveted Penn Relays watch, Jadon Watson lost a little focus.
The Kennedy high jumper managed to win the league, Passaic county and State sectional titles in his specialty, but the pop and style that marked his performance at Penn Relays, where he cleared 6-9 and indoor nationals, where he earned All-American status by clearing 6-10 ¾ was missing.
“I got hurt a little bit and I missed a few practices because I had to work,’’ said Watson. “But when I lost at groups (a week ago) I knew I had to get my focus back.’’
Whatever he did after a disappointing second place in Group 4 last week seemed to work as he cleared his first four heights without a miss and claimed the State Meet of Champs high jump title when he cleared 6-8 on his first attempt.
“I knew I could win today even though I wasn’t jumping great because I’ve competed against these guys all year and beat all of them, even though I lost to some of them too,’’ said Watson. “Then after I won the meet (and went to jump at 6-10) I relaxed too much and didn’t jump well.’’
But the wonderful senior year that saw Watson able to complete a full season for the first time will lead to him continuing to jump next year at Iowa Central Junior College where 2017 Kennedy high jump medalist Ronniel Johnson just completed his freshman year.
And Watson seemed almost as excited for his sophomore teammate Jamier Wright’s fourth place performance at a personal best 6-6 as he was for his own win.
“A soph going 6-6 – that’s crazy,’’ said Watson. “He’ll do seven feet by the time he’s a senior.”