One of the more unique occurrences of a track meet is the occasional jump-off - virtually the equivalent of sudden-death overtime in football. It is so rare that only two events entertain the possibility of continuing an event when two performers have reached the same height or distance.
In the long jump or triple jump, the scorecard can always go back to the second-best jump to determine a winner. However, this is not a possibility with the high jump and pole vault. A tie with the winning height is combined with the number of missed jumps throughout the competition to determine a winner. When the second number is the same, then there is no way to pick the winner, because unlike gymnastics and diving, there are no style points or degrees of difficulty. You either clear a height or you don't.
At Friday's Class 5 boys' pole vault, the ascent of the bar to 14 feet eliminated all of the vaulters from the competition, with the exception of two - Colton Ocetnik of Mountain View, and John Duegaw of Atlee. And both cleared the 14-foot barrier to force another round.
To no one's surprise, the two are not strangers. Despite the 60-mile distance between the two schools, the two vaulters are training partners, at least on occasion. They are both part of the Aim High team championed by central Virginia's vaulting guru Kyle Bishop. In that capacity, they may practice together a couple of times a week - even three, sometimes on Sunday, if Colton is unhappy with his mechanics.
In spite of their familiarity, "he knows my weaknesses, and I know his," said Ocetnik, the two had never been in a jump-off, which was forced on Friday when neither vaulter could clear 14-6 on three attempts.
As it turned out, Ocetnik had never faced extra rounds before. For that reason, his mental equilibrium was in check.
"I got more into the zone," said the Wildcat junior. "I felt more relaxed, and made it seem like a fun competition."
The laid-back mindset helped as Ocetnik cleared the barrier on his fourth, and extra, attempt, while Duegaw missed, giving the title to the bushy blonde from Mountain View.
And for the moment, it gave Ocetnik bragging rights, since Duegaw had won the state event last spring with a 14-6 clearance.
"He got me this time," said Duegaw, who still holds the lifetime edge with a 14-9 clearance to his credit.
The pair still has one more season to do battle. Duegaw will graduate in June and is in the preliminary stages of recruitment with Coastal Carolina and South Carolina. That will leave the new state champ without his toughest competitor, but the two seem to agree of their goal for the outdoor season.
"Fifteen," said Ocetnik.
"That sounds good," adds Duegaw. "Just as high as we can get it."