Jack Haller wouldn’t give back his state title in the pole vault from 2017, of course. But this spring, he learned that the glory can also be a burden at times.
Haller failed to win just one meet this season, but he began the year by underperforming significantly. He had set a personal best of 15 feet, 6 inches in the state championship last year, but the highest mark the West Forsyth senior cleared through his first eight meets in 2018 was 14 feet, 7 inches.
“When you don’t perform the way you want to at a meet, that (state) title really weighs you down,” Haller said. “It’s like, ‘I’m a defending state champion – I can’t be underperforming like this. That’s not what a champion does.’”
It could have been the abnormally windy weather at early meets, or perhaps the unnecessary experimentation with poles and steps, but Haller eventually fixed what was wrong, snapping out of his slump with a clearance of 15 feet, 3 inches at the county championship meet. And though he had another brief cold spell, the Navy signee and repeat All-FCN Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year peaked again at the state meet, clearing 16 feet to win his second straight state title.
“I was just really motivated the whole time,” Haller said. “That’s all I wanted to do – stay positive. And ‘two-time state champion’ sounds a lot better than ‘one-time state champion.’”
Interestingly enough, Haller said that his favorite vault of the year wasn’t the one that one him the state title, after a lengthy battle with Parkview’s Brian Hauch, but the one that came after the 16-foot clearance.
The bar went up to 16 feet, 6 inches, and Haller got his steps, his plant, and made it over. He doesn’t even remember grazing the bar, but when he landed in the pit, it fell down anyway. He was disappointed in the miss, but at the same time thrilled at how close he came.
“It was frustrating,” Haller said. “But that’s probably my favorite, just knowing that I can get that type of jump.”
Haller is the next in a crowded recent crop of Forsyth County athletes to sign with Navy. He’s already seen the kind of workouts the Midshipmen get up to, where their easy day would be the Wolverines’ toughest.
And while Haller has been the best around for a few years now, he’s prepared to confront the opposite reality.
“Here, I’m a top jumper; there, I’m nobody,” Haller said. “So I’m going to relaly have to deal with that and work my way up to being a top jumper again. That’s going to be a huge motivation, just to get my name everywhere.”