TIFTON, GA. — Most high school students don’t get to experience a state title.
Those that are lucky enough to win one, whether it be an individual title or as a member of a team, most likely will not get a chance to repeat.
Katie Utley is one of those students that has been blessed with the skills to win multiple state titles, and most impressingly she has done it as only a sophomore.
For two years now Utley has been able to make the claim as the top pole vaulter in Class AAAAA.
“It feels pretty good,” said Utley with a smile.
She will be unable to defend that title next year. Not because of skill, but because Tift County is moving up to Class AAAAAA.
So while Utley’s goal was originally to break the Class AAAAA record, she now will have a chance to set the original record for Class AAAAAA.
To help work towards that goal she plans to work with a strength coach over the summer, where she will work on increasing both her strength and speed.
In middle school Utley participated in several sports, but was too small for softball and too short for basketball. Determined to compete in something, she took on pole vaulting.
“I’m sure it’s different for different people, but for me it was pretty easy,” said Utley. “I really liked it so that probably made it easier.”The long hours of work pay off in the end though, as Utley is one of the most consistent vaulters in the state. She cleared a height of 11’ to win the title this season, but she wasn’t the only one to clear that height. The tiebreaker comes down to who cleared the highest percentage of attempts.
Utley missed no attempts until reaching 11’, while the girl who tied her missed three jumps working up to 11.
Utley plans to continue her career when she reaches college, and is already looking at several schools. Right now she is hoping to attend Louisiana State university, which fields both an indoor and outdoor track team.
“It would be interesting,” said Utley, who has been to Louisiana once before. “It would be something different for me to experience.”
Utley will likely have plenty of options when all is said and done, after winning two state titles after beginning pole vaulting less than three years ago. She will be training over this summer at camps at both the University of Georgia and Florida State University.
With two consecutive titles in two years most athletes would start to feel pressure. Utley does a good job of keeping things in perspective.
“I just want to do my best,” she said.
Utley also realizes there are several people who have helped her get to this point.
“I want to thank Charlie (Polhamus), coach Slimp, my parents and my granddad,” she said. more