ELIDA — It was a vision that longtime Elida track and pole vault coach Gary Evans had for then freshman Conner Douglass.
Two years ago, Coach Evans projected that Douglass would someday soon go over 14 feet in the pole vault.
Now, as a junior, Douglass has done just that.
Douglass vaulted 14 feet, 4 inches and placed third at last week’s Division I regional meet at Amherst, and is set to compete at the Division I state track-and-field meet that runs Friday and Saturday at Hilliard Darby High School. Douglass won the district meet at Findlay the week before, with a vault of 14-4. The top four placers in each event at regionals earned an automatic state berth.
Unfortunately, Coach Evans passed away unexpectedly last year and did not have the opportunity to watch Douglass accomplish his goal.
Douglass points to Coach Evans’ tutelage as one of the main reasons for his success.
“My freshman year, I pretty much considered that (freshman season) as my first year of pole vaulting, because I didn’t have all of the technique right,” Douglass reflected. “Coach Evans got me my freshman year, and I basically learned all of my technique over again. I ended up with a PR of 12-6 by the end of my freshman year at an indoor meet after the postseason. Coach Evans was there. One of the last things that Coach Evans said to me was, ‘We’re going 14 (feet) next year’. Obviously, I did not vault last year (cancellation of season due to COVID-19). This year, I did go over 14. … So, it was pretty cool.”
Douglass said he knew what it would probably take at regionals in order to qualify for the state meet.
“It feels great, especially being D-I. I’m really excited for sure,” Douglass said. “I thought 14 (feet) would be the magic number to make it to state, especially at our region. It ended up being 14 (feet). There were like seven or eight of us left when the bar was raised to 14 (at regionals). When I cleared it (14), a lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders. There were only four of us that cleared it. So, we then knew we were all going to state.”
Coach Evans influenced many athletes over his nearly five full decades at Elida. Jaden Overholt, a 2007 Elida graduate and now a teacher at the Elida Middle School, took over the coaching duties for pole vaulting at Elida when Evans passed away. Overholt also vaulted for Evans while competing at Elida.
“It’s some big shoes to fill,” Overholt said. “But with both of us having Coach Evans — Conner and I were kind of on the same page already. I coached him in wrestling and other things (coming up through middle school). So, it was pretty easy.
“It’s definitely a cool thing. Obviously, I would have liked to been able to pick Coach Evans’ ear a little bit more and gotten more of his routines and things that he did. We’re just trying to uphold that legacy.”
Overholt is not surprised at how Douglass has progressed the past couple years.
“I’m not totally surprised,” Overholt said. “He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s a wrestler (three-time Western Buckeye League champion). I’ve seen him through middle school. He was actually with me in junior high football. So, I’ve coached him in (middle school) football, (middle school) wrestling and track. He’s very dedicated, and he works very hard. He puts in a lot of extra time, outside of practice too.”
Heading into this weekend’s state meet, Douglass realizes that he will need to perform at a very high level in order to earn a spot on the awards podium.
“I think 15 (feet) can get me on the podium,” Douglass said. “I think it’s very possible for me. I definitely want to go at least 14-8, but 15 is like my dream number for the end of this year, for sure.”
W-G’S Spencer aiming
for pair of state titles
Waynesfield-Goshen sophomore Taylor Spencer is coming off two Division III regional titles at Troy – the 1,600 (5:05.07) and 3,200 (11:11.27). Spencer will be competing at the D-III state meet at Westerville North High School.
in two events
Perry junior Brady Yingst was the Division III regional champion last week at Troy in the 1,600 (4:24.77) and 800 (1:58.91). Yingst will compete at the Division III state meet at Westerville North High School.
Grove boys team
looks to contend
The Columbus Grove boys team will be well represented this weekend at the Division III state meet at Westerville North. There will be 15 Grove athletes competing at the state meet.
The Bulldogs are undefeated on the season, and are looking to continue that streak this weekend.
In all, the Columbus Grove boys will compete in 11 events at state.
The following will be competing this weekend for Columbus Grove: Jon Banal (110 hurdles, 400 relay, 300 hurdles), Gabe Clement (400 relay, 1,600 relay, pole vault), Carson Closson (3,200 relay, 800, 1,600 relay), Jaden Daniels (800 relay), Trenton Daniels (800 relay), Ethan Halker (discus), Zeke Halker (400 relay, high jump), Trent Koch (3,200 relay), Lawson Maag (discus), Caleb Morman (3,200 relay), Landon Meyers (800 relay, 1,600 relay), A. J. Schafer (shot put), Jacksen Schroeder (400 relay), Josh Smith (800 relay), Caleb Stechschulte (3,200 relay, 1,600 relay).
Ottawa-Glandorf sophomore Alexa Fortman will lead the O-G contingent this weekend at the Division II state meet at Pickerington High School North.
Fortman is coming off a regional title at Piqua this past weekend in the 400 (58.77 seconds). She also placed third in the 800 (2:22.39), and was part of the 3,200 relay (third, 9:37.86) and 1,600 relay (fourth, 4:11.34) that both qualified for the state meet.
Joining Fortman this weekend are teammates Myka Aldrich (high jump, 1,600 relay), Olivia Fenbert (3,200 relay, 1,600 relay), Lily Haselman (3,200 relay, 1,600 relay, pole vault) and Madelyn Hovest (3,200 relay).
For the O-G boys, senior Gavin Hedrick will compete in the 110 hurdles.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.