By Brad Morris
Logan Elm’s Tayla Tootle understandably entered her senior season with high expectations.
The Murray State signee finished fifth in the Division II state pole vault championships as a junior at 11’ 6” and followed that up over the winter by winning an indoor state championship by clearing 12′ 6”.
Tootle’s next goal was to clear 13 feet during her outdoor campaign, but she admitted that aligning her ability physically and mentally has not always been easy this season.
The recent Logan Elm graduate opened the postseason by winning a district championship, but only cleared 10 feet, and followed that up last Saturday by taking regional runner-up honors with a vault of 11′ 4”.
“My performances haven’t been exactly what I wanted them to be so far this season, especially coming off a really good indoor season,” Tootle said. “Districts for me was really rough and I had a hard time battling my head and being mental. I had a better meet during regionals, but I still battled my head and the nerves a little but having friends from indoor there helped me with that.
“I feel like I am still positioned a little low for the state meet than what I would like, but once I’m there with my friends, we will all cheer each other on and push ourselves to be the best we can that day.”
Tootle broadened the number of events she participated in during her senior season to have fun and help the team.
“This season has definitely been different for me,” Tootle said. “This year, I tried new events that I had never done before. I tried out long jump and the open 400.
“Long jump was definitely new to me. I wanted to try it out to help with pole vault. I ended up enjoying it, because it was a lot less stressful than pole vault to me and it was something new and fun to try out. I also started running the open 400. I’m also in the 4×400 so running 400 meters isn’t really new to me but I just wanted to start getting official times for the 400. Even though this season has had its ups and downs, overall, it has still been a pretty good season.”
Tootle expects to use a similar pole on Saturday at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to the one she used in early March to win the indoor state championship.
The Murray State signee enters the pole vault tied for the fourth best jump with seven other competitors from regional competition last week.
Greenon senior Tru Buddenberg has the top seed at 12′ 4”, a height that Tootle has previously cleared with room to spare.
Tootle knows she has the ability to be standing towards the top of the podium early Saturday afternoon to cap her prep career.
All she needs to do is relax and have fun.
“My goal for this weekend is to be confident and jump on my 12’ 7” pole,” she said. “In order to do this at the meet, I will just need to trust the process and believe in myself that I can do it. Once I am confident on this pole my jumps will feel a lot better, like how they did during indoor.”