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Wildcats vaulter waits, cruises to a second title

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Photographs by Jason Ivester

Springdale Har-Ber's Zach McWhorter

RUSSELLVILLE -- It was almost worth the wait for Zach McWhorter, who cleared 16 feet, 8 inches to win his second consecutive Meet of Champs title in the pole vault during the 60th annual event on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon at Cyclone Stadium.

A senior from Springdale Har-Ber, McWhorter, the most celebrated entrant in the 13-man field, had to wait almost two hours before entering the competition.

After winning the event, McWhorter missed three attempts at 17-2, which would have equaled his personal record and set a Meet of Champs mark.

Andrew Irwin of Mount Ida cleared a Meet of Champs record 17-1 in 2011.

"My first attempt at 17-2, I thought I had it easy," McWhorter said. "That's what everybody was saying that watched the video. It is what it is. You have your good days and your bad days. I'm older than a lot of these guys jumping, so it's really not about winning. It's more about PR'ing and jumping better on a national level."

McWhorter, who has signed with Brigham Young, cleared 16-10 last week to set a Class 7A record. He set a 7A-West record (17-0) last month.

Lake Hamilton sophomore Haze Farmer was the only other vaulter remaining when McWhorter entered the competition at 16-0.

McWhorter easily cleared 16-0 on his first attempt. Farmer was eliminated after missing three attempts at 16-0.

McWhorter cleared 16-8 on his second attempt, then had the bar raised to a Meet of Champs record 17-2.

"I jump better when I have guys to push me," McWhorter said. "But the guy that finished second is only a sophomore, so I have to give him props for jumping really good."

McWhorter said he plans to compete in next week's Arkansas high school decathlon in Cabot, but not because it offers him another chance to vault.

McWhorter also competed in the hurdles and long jump during the outdoor season.

"I want to take a shot at trying to win the decathlon," McWhorter said.

Regardless of the decathlon outcome, McWhorter will have to wait -- again -- to pole vault because of a two-year mission to Indonesia before enrolling at BYU. He said he will leave four days after the decathlon.

"A lot of people have asked me if I'm going to suffer or lose it because I won't be able to pole vault," McWhorter said. "Honestly, I think I'm going to be a much better vaulter when I get back. A lot of people like me who specialize in the pole vault, you can get burned out. I'm not saying I'm burned out, but I feel it's kind of getting close. There's just so much. It's non-stop pole vaulting."

The only Meet of Champs record broken was by Bentonville senior Adrian Broadus, who sailed 47-9 in the boys triple jump. Micah Washington of Fort Smith Southside set the previous record (47-5.50) in 2008.

The individual star in the girls division was Hamburg junior Tiana Wilson, who won the 100 (12.00), 200 (25.19) and 400 (57.44).

North Little Rock sophomore Kennedy Lightner won the 100 (10.84) and 200 (21.58) in the boys' division.

Russellville senior Matt Campbell completed a perfect indoor and outdoor season in the shot put (53-3.50).

Campbell, 6-1, 210 pounds, was also a two-way starter (offensive guard and defensive end) on Russellville's Class 6A state championship football team last fall.

"It's just been a crazy year," Campbell said. "Good year. Really good year."

The Meet of Champs was open to champions from the seven state meets, along with the next nine best marks in each event, regardless of classification.

Sports on 05/14/2017

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