Ashley Bailey, all 4-foot-11 of her, practically looked elegant as she soared over the bar and into the pole vault pit at Caesar Rodney High.
She needed only two tries to set the meet record Friday at the DIAA Track and Field State Championships, clearing 10 feet, 6 inches by about 2 feet and then gracefully gliding over the bar at 11-1. That was 1 inch beyond the meet record Appoquinimink’s Erin Lash cleared last year.
“It’s beautiful. It’s classic,” said longtime track official and former Olympic coach Bill Thomson as he watched the Middletown junior make a difficult task look easy.
Bailey then had the bar perched at 11-7, 1 inch beyond the state mark A.I. du Pont’s Courtney Markow set in 2010. She came close, especially when she just brushed the bar on the way down on the second of her third tries.
“That was gutsy,” former William Penn and Charter coach Kevin Kelly, overseeing the event, told Bailey as she walked away.
Afterward, Bailey was happy to have come close and confident there are new heights to be reached.
“I’ve got the Meet of Champions Wednesday at Dover, and I’ll try again then,” she said.
Bailey, whose biceps bulged as she galloped down the runway ready to stab her pole into the launching area, has played numerous other sports, such as field hockey and basketball, and also has been a competitive cheerleader. Her athleticism benefits her, she said, and the technical aspects of pole vaulting haven’t been as demanding as she expected.
“I tried it for the first time last year, and I just really liked it. It was fun,” she said.
Also enjoying herself as the two-day meet got underway was Maiya Dendy, who lowered her state record in the Division II 100-meter dash preliminaries.
The Padua sophomore, who ran a state-record 11.91 at the New Castle County meet last week, chopped significant time off that with an 11.68. Coming into this season, Danielle Bailey’s 12.04 had stood as the state mark since 2001.
“My goal was 11.7, and I broke that,” said Dendy, who has what it takes to pursue such challenges. “My main goal is for the summer to make the U.S. youth team [for international meets]. You’ve got to be top two in your event. [Today] it’s supposed to rain, so I wanted to run a fast time [Friday].”
The 11.68 is the fastest 100 ever run by a Delaware high school girl, topping the 11.82 Glasgow’s Kamilah Salaam clocked at the 2002 National Scholastic meet, which does not count as a state record as it comes out of season.
“How about that time? The warm weather really helps sprinters,” Padua coach Marnie Giunta said on a day with 80-degree temperatures and no wind. “She ran that hard, and she’s getting stronger and stronger.”
Dendy then ran a 23.97 in 200 qualifying. Her state record there is 23.96, and she’s the only Delaware girl to ever break 24 seconds. Today, she said she hopes to challenge the state 400 record of 54.83 Delcastle’s Celina Emerson clocked in 2010.
The field events also featured a Division I meet record as Smyrna’s Raven Luckett soared 18-7¼ to win the long jump. She exceeded her best qualifying distance by nearly a foot. She also helped the Eagles take an early lead in the team standings.
Other field-event winners were discus throwers Sarah Hillman of Polytech (124-01) in Division II and William Penn’s Tylar Duncan (118-0) in Division I, Hodgson’s Alexis Rogers in the Division II long jump (16-5) and Caravel’s Marissa Wallendorf in Division II pole vault (9-0).
In the afternoon’s lone finals on the track, Tatnall exhibited its distance prowess once again, though it may not have the all-event depth to top Padua in the Division II team race.
Senior Julie Williams won the Division II 3,200 in 10:55.72, with teammate Caroline Foley, an eighth-grade prodigy, close behind in 10:56.86. It was the eighth time in nine years Tatnall had won the 3,200.
By running a 9:39.80 in the 4×800-meter relay, Tatnall beat Padua by 12 seconds. Jill Reinhardt, Kendra Riley and Lindsay Voltz handed Reagan Anderson a big lead, and the state 800 record-holder finished the task. It was the seventh straight year Tatnall won the event and fifth time it had broken 9:40.
In Division I, Charter School of Wilmington senior Amanda Rickert won the 3,200 in 11:24.07, and the 4×800 went to Appoquinimink with Abby Heath, Celia Pascoe, Piper Freed and Madison Powell in 9:49.43.