Competing Saturday at the Falcon Quad meet at Torrey Pines, Del Norte junior Allison Leigh established a San Diego Section record in the pole vault. (Contributed image)
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SAN DIEGO -- Having a San Diego Section record set in the girls' pole vault this season is certainly no surprise.
Not with Rancho Bernardo's Ashley Callahan, the co-holder of the standard at 13-6 returning. After all, she not only equaled the previous best by Westview's Kortney Ross set in 2010, she captured the 2019 State Meet title along the way.
Sure enough, in the Torrey Pines Falcon Quad Saturday, the first "invitational" of the 2021 season in the SDS, the record tumbled.
Only it was Del Norte junior Allison Leigh collecting three personal records en route to clearing 13-7, the No. 2 mark in the state, and No. 6 in the nation this year. It also slots her equal to the No. 10 performer in state history.
No. 1 is Westlake's Paige Sommers, whose 14-8.50 is the national record. Anything Sommers accomplishes surprises no one. Not so much Leigh.
In 2019, the last full high school track season, Leigh went 12-1.50. Last summer she went to as many Vaulter Magazine meets as she could and in February she cleared 12-11.50 in Menifee.
Saturday, she was on fire at Torrey Pines, soaring over 11-6, 12-0, 12-6, and a personal best 13-feet on her first attempts. She left Callahan and RB's Melodie Quiroz behind at 12-6.
Leigh asked the bar to be raised and after her first miss of the competition, she cleared 13-3, a second PR.
"I didn't know what the record was until my dad and coach told me to move the bar to 13-7," said Leigh. "I was super excited."
As might be expected, she was so emotional she never got off the ground on her first record attempt, running through the pit. She adjusted after slowing things down so much she brought down the bar on her second try.
She did something else -- she jumped on a 13-6, 155-pound test pole.
"I went right in between," said Leigh of her third-attempt clearance, balancing too much speed with too little. She brushed the bar but not enough to knock it off the pegs.
"I heard the announcer say I was going for the record and that pumped me up. I got so much support. My whole team, family, and coaching staff were there -- my teammates lined the runway --and it was good to jump in front of a crowd again."
Leigh had the bar moved to 13-10 but admits she said she was finished.
"I wasn't feeling it by then," said Leigh. "I wasn't intimidated or anything, I was just tired."
About that new pole.
"I'd tried using it in practice and let's just say I was unsuccessful," she said. "I had to adjust."
It's a far cry from when Leigh first tried vaulting, dragging a pole along the runway before clearing 8-6 as an eighth-grader. But something magic happened when she went over the bar.
"It was similar to gymnastics, which I'd been in since I was 2 ½-years-old," said Leigh, who despite being a Level 8 competitor, never looked back.
The agility, strength, and speed (she also ran the 100-meter dash in a meet this year) she built on the mats paid big dividends and she quickly improved.
"I'm fearless," admitted Leigh. "Just last week I crashed back onto the runway. I wasn't hurt but it was embarrassing. The competitive environment is the same as gymnastics but this is more fun."
The scene quickly moves to a dual meet Wednesday at Rancho Bernardo where Leigh faces Callahan and Quiroz.
Elsewhere in the meet where four teams each were in morning and afternoon sessions, the hurdles featured double winners.
La Costa Canyon's Tyler Holl took the section lead with a 39.89 win in the 300 hurdles and won the 110-meter highs in 15.19. On the girls' side, Mt. Carmel's Sophia Truscott also doubled, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 15.60 and the 300 lows in 46.26.
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Steve Brand is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the San Diego Section editor.