Pole in grasp, bar in sight.
One step back. A “shake-out” to loosen the joints and muscles, and to free herself of any tension caused by the world that lies outside of the confines of her competitive space. Then, a quick measure of the width between her hands.
Morgan McIntyre clears herself for takeoff. Three … step, step, step, … two … step, step … one … step ... and she flies.
A mere quarter of an inch tightly wedges itself between her personal record and sole possession of the state record.
The Fairview senior pole vaulting specialist will try to flaunt her midair magic today at the Class A Track & Field State Championships in Lexington.
If she fends off the competition, McIntyre will enter rarely ventured territory and uncannily collect a fifth state title.
But, even after setting the Class A mark with a leap of 10 feet, 7 inches, in 2013, McIntyre wants more.
“I want to try to break the overall state record,” she said, referring to the best of the best across all three classes in Kentucky. Megan Zimlich, of Ballard, posted the peak height of 11-9 in 2011.
“So maybe 11-10 or 11-9 and a quarter,” she said confidently.
Considering her 11-9 effort in regionals, coupled with the fact that she’s cleared 11 feet in nine of her last 10 meets, moving into the all-time No. 1 slot is not some far-fetched pipe dream.
The Western Kentucky University signee has racked up a bevy of believers along the way.
First-year Fairview track & field coach Tim Champlin enjoys assuming the role of spectator when McIntyre goes to work.
“She’s a technician,” Champlin said. “Her technique is almost perfect. It amazes me what she does.”
Champlin isn’t alone.
McIntyre’s family flocks its way within close proximity of her pole-vaulting prowess.
Her father, Scott, typically volunteers to assist in the set-up and breakdown of the pole vault event, and the monitoring in between. Her mother, Penni, is the “cheerer,” Morgan said.
“They’re my biggest fans. They support me 100 percent,” she said. “Honestly, I couldn’t ask for better people to have in my life.”
Her parents have never missed a meet, McIntyre said.
Just before her senior season got under way, McIntyre lost her grandfather, Fred McIntyre. He passed away in March.
“He would tell everybody that he came in contact with about how proud he was of me,” McIntyre said. “I feel like this year is for my papaw.”
The void of Fred, a longtime press operator at The Independent, at meets was “weird” initially for McIntyre.
“It still sucks,” she said, but a moment of clarity washed over her like a titanic wave during a meet at Leslie County on Fairview’s spring break.
With her iPad, Penni snapped a picture of Morgan as she performed a track dash. In the frame, McIntyre appeared translucent. Sun rays embraced her as she ran amid an enhanced spotlight.
“I saw (the picture) and it gave me the chills,” McIntyre said. “I think that was him telling me that he was still there.”
A pole vaulter since fifth grade, McIntyre said she couldn't have risen to such soaring summits without assistance.
She and Champlin both gave credit to former Fairview coaches Becca Chaney and Bob Stacey. Chaney first suggested McIntyre try pole vaulting, because of her excellence in tumbling growing up.
McIntyre described herself as “awful” at first, but then she “started to get the hang of it and enjoy it.”
For the past two years, Sundays spent with Jamie Steffen have paid dividends as well.
Steffen, of Fuzion Athletics, trains athletes in an indoor facility in Louisville.
“That’s helped me so much,” McIntyre said. “He’s made pole vault rise tremendously in the state of Kentucky. … Before, I’d have to go all over the place — to Columbus, to Akron — to train.”
Steffen moved to the Bluegrass State from Minnesota, said McIntyre.
Despite having to run in weather conditions that resembled a “monsoon,” said McIntyre, the Lady Eagle zoomed to a 1:04.49, first-place finish in the 400-meter run in the Class A, Region 7 meet at Leslie County on May 10.
She has also run in the 200-meter dash, the 4 x 200 relay and 4 x 400 relay at different points throughout the season.
Since the Ernie Chattin Meet, which was held at Ashland in late April, McIntyre has avoided a formerly continuous battle with leg cramps.
“During that time, it was awful,” she recalled. “Every time I’d run, I was in tears on the ground afterward. … I think I wasn’t drinking enough water.
“Now, I haven’t been cramping as bad. My parents and I make sure I get ice baths and drink bottles of water every day.”
McIntyre had to push through an even greater degree of adversity last season. As a junior, she was in a boot for the bulk of the season because of Achilles’ heel tendonitis. It rarely kept her out of meets, but practice time was limited.
As a nervous 12-year-old, McIntyre placed seventh in the state competition as a seventh-grader, eclipsing the 8-foot tally.
It’s been a steady, and clutch, climb since.
A propensity to save the best for last has landed McIntyre a label.
“All the officials gave me the name ‘last-attempt jumper’ because I’ve gotten a lot of jumps on my last attempt,” McIntyre said. “You get three jumps. I guess I go one to play with, two to focus on and three to make it.”
Her state titles:
—2010 (eighth-grader) — 9-0
—2011 — 9-6
—2012 — 9-6
—2013 — 10-7
—2014 — ???
Upon missing the Class A record in 2011, McIntyre said, “there are plenty of other years. I’m just a freshman.”
Just three years later, McIntyre is looking to affix a permanent bar to bookend a storied high school career.
“I’ve matured,” she said as she reflected on her five years of rarely rivaled success. “And I know things aren’t just handed to you. You can’t just sit and wait for good things to happen. When you’re younger, things come easy to you. But as you get older, you realize you have to work harder to get what you want.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Pole in grasp, bar in sight.
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