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Johnston, Harrington earn trip to state

Robbie Johnston had a modest goal as he entered his freshman season competing in the pole vault.

The Eagle Point freshman wanted to clear 13 feet — two feet higher than he did as an eighth-grader.

— mid-April, Johnston topped the 13-foot plateau and set his sights higher. Something above Dustin Best's 1993 school record of 14-2.

Like Johnston, sophomore Aubrey Harrington has continually adjusted her goals upwards.

Harrington trained all of one week before vaulting the first time two years ago in the district junior high meet, where she tied for first place.

She earned her first trip to the Class 4A state meet last spring and hopes to build on the experience after winning the Southern Oregon Conference championship with a 10-3 effort last week at Klamath Falls.

Johnston and Harrington will be two of three Eagle Point athletes represented in the state meet at Hayward Field in Eugene Friday and Saturday.

Katie Anderson, a junior, earned the other Eagle bid to state by placing second in the district shot put at 36-9?.

Neither Johnston nor Harrington is favored to soar to victory, but both have designs on new heights.

Johnston cleared 8 feet as a seventh-grader and improved to 11-0 last year. He has bettered 13 feet at least seven times in ratcheting his way up to 13-9 in the final dual meet of the season against Crater. He then skipped right past 14 feet to take a shot at the school record.

I moved right to 14-3, but I probably should've tried 14, Johnston says in hindsight.

At the district meet he took three solid shots at 14 feet with the help of a different pole. Implements in field events are shared property, so to speak, and it's not unusual for vaulters to borrow poles.

Johnston found one that he particularly liked that belonged to Ashland and proceeded to finish second to Klamath Union senior Justin Fay, who cleared 14-0.

My poles weren't working too well for me, Johnston says. I found one that I had never touched before and it was working real well for me. It was heavier, but a little softer and I was able to penetrate (the plain of the bar) more.

With that pole, he was able to rock back farther as the pole bent in an inverted-U shape before catapulting its 5-foot-8 140-pound load skyward.

You've got to take chances, Johnston says, and be a little crazy or brave to do this.

Johnston has made arrangements to use that pole during this week's state meet.

It was while watching a twilight meet at Newland Track at Spiegelberg Stadium that Harrington was first attracted to the pole vault.

I had seen the pole vault after dark, when the lights were on and to see someone fly through the air looked so cool, Harrington recalls. I told my dad (Gary) that's what I wanted to do.

A couple of springs later, Harrington took up the pole vault the week before the district meet, where she tied for first at 7-6.

I thought if I could do that in a week, Harrington says, it would be neat to see what I could do in a season.

Last year as a freshman, Harrington had a best of 9-6, placing second in the SOC meet.

Her appearance in the state meet was brief, but gave her a better understanding of vaulting. She failed to clear the opening 9-foot height.

It was really scary, she says. I was the only freshman there. That's why so I'm so excited about this year, because I'm more prepared.

I was over the bar, but I wasn't as fast as normal. I had to switch poles, because I was mushing mine and it wasn't worth anything much.

Harrington was the setter for Eagle Point's volleyball team, but tore the meniscus in her left knee in early December and had to have surgery.

She says the strength in her knee only returned about two weeks ago in a dual against South Medford.

Nonetheless, she easily topped her freshman mark with room to spare.

After clearing 10-3 at district she moved the bar to 10-10, hoping to break the meet record.

I barely missed that, I hit it with my arm on the way down and the wind knocked it off, Harrington says. I had it and I know I can do that.

The other thing she knows she can do is clear the opening height.

I would like to score some points and really compete this time, Harrington says. Climbing higher in the 10s would be nice, or maybe even 11.

Reach reporter at 776-4483, or e-mail