West Allis - Years ago, whenever Nicole Larson would watch a track meet, her attention was often drawn to the pole vault.
"I would follow the jumpers and wanted to do it myself almost immediately," she recalled.
Later, in her high school years, she went out for the track team and participated in the pole vault for West Allis Central.
Over the years, she became pretty good at it. She qualified for the 2011 WIAA Division 1 State Track and Field Meet and placed sixth with 10 feet, 6 inches, earning a medal for a top-six finish.
Improving from last year
This season, as a junior, she enjoyed plenty of success, winning the event in most of her meets. She made her return to state last weekend and capped her year by claiming fourth in the pole vault with 11 feet, 3 inches at Memorial Stadium on Friday.
"I felt good most of the day," Larson said, "though I was really nervous (at the start). I got better as the day went along, and I thought my form improved too. It was very exciting taking fourth this year."
Central assistant coach Jeff Boeder said, "She has been a steady performer during the entire 2012 season. Her best performance has been 11-6, which placed her 21st all-time in the state. She was ranked fourth in Division 1 and sixth overall for all three divisions this year."
As is usually the case with successful athletes, Larson worked hard during the off-season.
"She has made it a priority to train hard during the off-season through speed and strength workouts last summer and fall as well as participating in the Get Vertical Pole Vault Club in the winter," Boeder said. "She has also been extremely focused and determined in practices this season, and her intensity during meets have helped her succeed throughout the season."
Boeder and the rest of the Central coaching staff enjoyed watching her this season.
"It has been very exciting to see jump well," Boeder continued. "She has been a very easy athlete to coach because of her interest and intensity level."
Other athletes compete
Larson was one of six West Allis entrants at the state meet. Her pole vault rival, Kathy O'Hara of West Allis Hale, claimed 16th place at La Crosse with 10-0 and Peter Keen of the Huskies tied for 16th in the boys discus at 143-2.
Josh Boeder of Central finished 18th in the boys pole vault (13-0), pleasing his coach, Mark Klobukowski.
"He made his first vault at 12-6 and again at 13-0," Klobukowski said. "He was unable to clear at 13-6 (which would have put him in the top 10). Josh proved how consistent he was this entire season. This what you work for when you train almost the entire year and then have a chance to prove yourself at the state meet.
"Josh is only a sophomore and he has shown he can compete with the best of them."
For Hale, Elizabeth Brunner snared 22nd in the girls high jump (4-10) and Ellie Probst 23rd in the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 29.69 seconds).
- Steven L. Tietz contributed to this story.
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