Matt Rowland’s bid for a third consecutive state championship in the Division II pole vault Friday didn’t come without a little drama.
Down to his final attempt after missing his first two vaults at 15 feet, Rowland was facing a do-or-die moment.
“I knew I could do it,” he said. “I just needed to get it through my head that it was going to happen. I got a little nervous. I was thinking after two titles what it would be like to blow it on the third one and not make it. I just had to do it.”
Rowland cleared his third attempt, then made 15-3 — a mark his last competitor, Eric Fox of Cambridge couldn’t make — to become the first Bellevue athlete to win three state titles in any event. His winning mark was 15-9. He attempted what would’ve been a new Division II meet record mark of 16-4 ½ but missed on all three tries. He set the Division II state record earlier in the spring at 16-6.
“It’s very big,” said Rowland of winning a third state crown. “I’ve dreamed of it since I first started. I always wanted to be like my cousin Chad (Beamer) and breaking his two titles is a proud accomplishment.
“(Missing the first two vaults at 15 feet) was good for me. It was an eye-opener that I could be beat here.”
Pole vaulting has long been a family affair for the Rowlands and the Beamers. Rowland’s grandfather, William Beamer, was a vaulter, as was Rowland’s uncle, Bellevue assistant coach Shawn Beamer.
Shawn Beamer’s clinic in Bellevue has been producing pole vaulting champions for years for the Redmen and Lady Red. Shawn’s son Chad, his daughter Kelly and Lee Miller all earned titles.
Rowland’s championship is the seventh title overall in the pole vault for a Bellevue athlete and the 12th overall for the school.
Making it extra special for Rowland was the fact it was his coaches’ final season. Shawn Beamer is retiring as a Redmen assistant coach.
“He’s definitely the biggest part of my success,” said Rowland of his uncle. “He’s coached me ever since the fifth grade. I’d be nothing without him. I’ve had other coaches help me along the way, but he’s been with me the longest.”
After vaulting for a few hours, Rowland came back and took fourth in the prelims for the 110 hurdles to earn a chance at another state medal on Saturday.
Rowland won his second state title in 2012 with a top vault of 16-1. He won in 2011 as a sophomore with a vault of 14-9.
Next year, he’ll compete in the pole vault at the University of Akron.
“This year’s field was the best one I’ve ever jumped against,” said Rowland of the field that had nine competitors at 14-6. “Last year 14-6 would’ve gotten second.”
But for Rowland first is all that matters.
“If I would’ve had my bigger pole for the record vaults, I would’ve proabably cleared that height by quite a lot,” he said. “I just tried to play it safe and it backfired. But the state title is the most important part.”