Paige Sommers hugs her father John Sommers after breaking the California pole vault record with a clearance of 14 feet, 6 inches on Saturday at Thousand Oaks HS. (Photo: Karen Ocskasy)
This article has been corrected to clarify the height of her final attempts.
THOUSAND OAKS -- Paige Sommers began an overcast 50-degree day not feeling her best. She ended up seemingly on top of the world.
Well, on top of the Golden State, at minimum.
Sommers, a junior at Westlake High School, broke the California state high school record in the pole vault when she cleared 14 feet, 6 inches on Saturday at the Thousand Oaks Lancer Invitational. It is the second-highest clearance by a high school girl in the pole vault in U.S. history.
"Crazy day," Sommers said not long afterward. "I didn't have a good night's sleep last night and felt kind of sick this morning. My dad (John Sommers) was telling me he PR'd when he was sick, saying you've just got to push through it. That was my mentality today, not to focus on how I was feeling and just try to get good bars."
The previous girls standard in California was 14-5.50 set by Rachel Baxter of Anaheim Canyon in 2017. According to the Track & Field News High School Record Book, Sommers, 16, also broke Baxter's junior class national record, which was 14-3, set in 2016 and she established a new age group mark, which had been 14-1, set by Seattle (WA) Ballard HS's Lianne Kistler last year.
"I honestly didn't think about it," Sommers said about her mentality approaching 14-6. "I just thought stick to my technique and it will be fine. I wasn't thinking about the height or anything. I was just, I know what I'm doing, I have to swing fast and I'll be good."
Sommers was there last spring at the Arcadia Invitational when Chloe Cunliffe of West Seattle (WA) HS cleared 14-8 to set the national high school record, breaking her previous standard of 14-4.75.
Despite already taking 12 attempts on Saturday to that point, Sommers went after Cunliffe's mark, making three final vaults at 14-9.25.
"When I watched that, I thought, 'That's pretty insane.' Like, no one will ever beat that," Sommers said of Cunliffe's clearance. "Just knowing that I was attempting it today, and higher than it, is a good feeling."
On Saturday at Thousand Oaks HS, it was a gray day in the 50s with only scattered sprinkles and none during the girls pole vault competition. A breeze was at her back throughout as she charged down the elevated runway.
Sommers joined the competition at 11-7 and finished, 15 vaults later (by her count), attempting 14-10.
"It was definitely very tiring," Sommers said. "I told my dad a couple times that I was exhausted but just got to keep pushing through because I felt like I could make big bars today. My mentality was just not to focus on the negative, just look at the positive: My run's good, my technique is better than normal."
Sommers, runner-up at the State Meet last spring as a sophomore, came in with a PR of 13-6. She said she had been working on speed and strength, inspired by the fact that the State medal she earned was silver, not gold.
MORE ON SOMMERS' RECORD DAY
Despite placing third at the National Pole Vault Summit last month in Reno and second at the Winter Championships two weeks ago, Sommers said her training had been going well. She said she was blowing through poles at those meets and decided to go up from what she used last year. Sommers said she was on a 14-7/160 pole for her record clearance and 14-7/165 for her final attempt.
"The two poles I was on today I'd never been on," she said.
Sommers said her goal coming into the spring season, which officially began Saturday, was she "wanted to get at least 14 (feet) by State. So, I'm going to have to put my goal up a little higher and see how it goes."
State is the end of May. This is February. It wasn't supposed to happen this soon.
"I knew I could make big bars the next couple meets because in practice I was getting more pop off the poles than I ever have," she said. "I definitely didn't expect today, with not feeling well and how everything went. I was just tight I was not in the best mood to vault but I had to put that to the side."