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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe NO SMALL THROW: Lake Hamilton senior Haze Farmer follows through with a throw Thursday while competing in the discus portion of the state decathlon championship at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville. Farmer finished seventh in the event with a throw of 100 feet, 6 inches before winning the overall event. - Photo by Andy Shupe

A year after setting the state pole vault record in the decathlon at Cabot, Lake Hamilton senior Haze Farmer missed his mark by 4 1/2 inches, but that was not enough to keep him from successfully defending his title in Fayetteville at Ramay Junior High.

Farmer cleared the bar at 16 feet, 3/4 inch Thursday to win the event, despite it being more than a foot below the mark he had hit last Saturday at the Meet of Champions, but it was more than enough to give him the space he needed to edge past his two biggest competitors -- Springdale's Sebastian Frazier and Rogers Heritage's Ty Graser.

"If anything was a letdown, it was his vault," said Lake Hamilton head coach Karl Koonce. "I'm not criticizing him, and I'm sure he would say that he was disappointed that he did not do better. Any vaulter can tell you that it is easy to do: you go up, and you hit the bar on the way down. ... He just needed a lot to stay next to Graser."

Graser led the competition after the first day, garnering 3,365 points, while Fountain Lake's Ahman Johnson trailed by just 30 points in second with 3,335 points. Farmer sat in fifth with 3,240 points.

"He didn't do as well in the long jump, but he got a PR (personal record) in three events," said Koonce. "He tied in the other. His 100 was exactly what it was the year before. His other three were better. His long jump was a little worse."

NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe LET IT FLY: Fountain Lake senior Ahman Johnson releases the discus during the state decathlon championship at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville Thursday. Johnson, despite having competed in just four of the 10 events in high school, finished fifth overall and was the top 4A finisher in the competition.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe LET IT FLY: Fountain Lake senior Ahman Johnson releases the discus during the state decathlon championship at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville Thursday. Johnson, despite having competed in just four of the 10 events in high school, finished fifth overall and was the top 4A finisher in the competition.

Johnson turned in an impressive performance on the first day, especially since he had only competed in two of them in high school. In fact, the senior Cobra only had high school experience in four of the 10 events in a high school meet.

"I thought he would have a chance to do well, but it's pretty impressive what he's able to do, especially when six of the 10 events, he hasn't done in a high school track meet," said Fountain Lake coach Jake Dettmering, who traveled to Fayetteville with Johnson. "And with him being a senior, he hasn't even been at school the last couple weeks. He hasn't been training, and I can almost guarantee you every other kid that was in that decathlon had been training the last two weeks."

Johnson took ninth in the 100 and second in the long jump to start the day Wednesday before moving to the shot put.

"He threw 34 feet," Dettmering said. "I was impressed with that. He only weighs 145-150 pounds, and he threw the shot 34 feet."

Dettmering said that Johnson had not competed in the high jump since junior high, and he used a scissor-kick, instead of the more standard Fosbury Flop, to clear the bar for his first six jumps.

"He scissor-kicked 5-7 and landed on the mat, both feet, at 5-7," Dettmering said. "He came to me and said, 'Coach, I don't think I can scissor-kick any higher.' I said, 'I don't think so either. You've got to flop.' So he flopped up to 5-11, and he actually had 6 feet and a 1/4 (inch) cleared, (but) his foot hit it on his way down."

Koonce said that he was not surprised to see Farmer sitting at fifth at the end of the first day, especially since his primary event was the third of the day on Thursday. However, he was uncertain about how well the top pole vaulter in the country might perform in the 110 high hurdles.

Farmer struggled with a hamstring injury during the fall, leaving his coaches "a little gun-shy" to do any intense training on the event that Farmer had finished 35th in the previous year.

"He actually did better at the hurdles than I expected," Koonce said. "He started five-stepping (between the hurdles), went to three-steps for a couple and then went back to five steps again.

"It wasn't his fault. We spent last fall babying him around. I feel like he would have been more ready if we had not been so gun-shy about his hamstring."

With Farmer still trailing after the vault, he turned in a great performance in the triple jump, earning a personal record and pulling into contention for the top position going into the final event, the 1,500-meter run. The senior Wolf finished 13th with a time of 4:59.47, garnering enough points to claim his second-straight title.

On the second day, Johnson finished 15th in the 110 hurdles and 12th in the discus throw before moving on to the pole vault for the first time. With little experience in the event, Dettmering went to Lake Hamilton pole vault coach Morry Sanders.

"I went and got Lake Hamilton's coach and asked him to give him some pointers on pole vault," he said. "Besides the leg-drive and the jumping and the pulling up with your top hand and getting your feet higher than your hips, I didn't know what to tell him. He comes in cold and clears two or three bars after the opening height. Pole vault isn't something you just go out there and do."

Johnson finished 30th in the event out of over 60 who cleared the initial bar before taking second in the triple jump and 23rd in the 1,500 to claim fifth.

"I was happy," Dettmering said. "He performed well in even the events he hasn't worked on. He's just an impressive athlete. He's got a lot of gifts. He's so explosive and just fluid, and he showed some competitiveness with that."

Lake Hamilton's Michael Harris took 12th at the end of the two-day event with Lakeside's William Mims finishing 18th. Jessieville's Landon Daley and Charlie Davis finished 34th and 38th, respectively.

Sports on 05/18/2019

Print Headline: Farmer overcomes low vault to win decathlon

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