They’re not just running schools anymore. State championship aspirations run deep for Plainview and Madill pole vaulters as well.

They’re not just running schools anymore. State championship aspirations run deep for Plainview and Madill pole vaulters as well.

So deep that the Indians and Wildcats could put names in a hat and pull out a state winner. It’s a rarity that a school has one, let alone two vaulters who can claim select-few status in the state.

Plainview and Madill can.

“They’ve developed such a good awareness of the movements of their bodies,” Plainview boys track and field coach Johni Bell said Wednesday. “That’s what you have to have to have to be able to pole vault.”

Bell herself said she wasn’t even up to the task as a prep athlete. But she and girls coach Jerry Naylor have two state favorites in Tanner Callihan and Danielle Nowell.

Callihan, a sophomore, set his personal best and school record of 14 feet, 6 inches Tuesday at the Velma-Alma Comet Invitational. Callihan estimated he has a 2-foot advantage on any of his closest competition in Class 3A.

Callihan was second at state as a freshman to Ty Pettitt of Sulphur, who Callihan beat three times in regular-season meets last season. This season with Pettitt graduated, there’s little standing between Callihan and his first state title.

“It made me mad at state,” said Callihan of losing last season. “One of my major priorities is to go to college (for pole vaulting). Knock on wood, three state championships would be nice.”

Nowell, an Arkansas signee, is seeking her second. She was best in 3A as a freshman in 2007, but missed out on two more state titles because of competition cheerleading her sophomore year and a broken bone in her right foot as a junior.

The senior has been untouchable this season, vaulting a girls’ state record 12-9 at the Lone Grove Invitational on April 23. She just found out Tuesday that she’s a half-inch away from qualifying for the U.S. junior national team.

She has one or two chances left — 3A regionals on Saturday in Madill and likely the state meet next week at Noble Stadium.

“I wish I would have known before,” said Nowell, who’s cleared the required 12-9½ in practice several times.

Sophomore Chloe Thompson is one of several Plainview vaulters that use the Nowell-Callihan tandem as an example.

“Danielle and Tanner are both really good vaulters,” said Thompson, who’s shooting for a top three place at state. “I learn a lot just from being out there with them every day.”

Madill’s Kadie Peoples is usually Nowell’s top competition at cross-classification meets. Peoples, a Cowley County (Kan.) signee, has a personal best of 11-6 and was second at 4A state last season to Madill alum Kylee Clement, a three-time state champ who’s now vaulting for Oklahoma Baptist.

The Wildcats’ top boys vaulter is senior Matt Baker, who was seventh at state last season but is unbeaten in 4A in 2010. Baker holds the Madill school record at 13-6.

Baker said Madill’s success comes from “one of the best coaches around (Ron Love), a wide selection of poles and good facilities,” while Peoples was also complimentary of the work Love has done in his ninth year at Madill.

“We have a successful coach that helps us and tells us what needs improving and what we need to fix,” she said.

Love, who’s coached vaulters for 33 years, heaped praise on his athletes.

“They get down to basics and work hard at it,” he said. “There are so many variables. Poles are expensive and you’ve gotta have a place to jump. The next thing is kids finding out they have a lot of success at it.”

When asked what made the Indians’ pole vaulters so successful, Callihan pointed to the knee of teammate Haley Reaves, who still attends practice even though she’s injured.

Reaves was third at state as freshman before tearing her ACL during offseason training in October. Even the injured are decorated ... and dedicated.

“It’s hard work. Just Plainview tradition.” Callihan said. “I’m pretty sure everyone here works hard at it.”

Erik K. Horne


3A-4A regional meet
  All day Saturday at Alumni Field, Madill
  Area teams: 4A, Dickson, Lone Grove, Lone Grove; 3A, Kingston, Marietta, Plainview, Sulphur, Tishomingo