Blaine's Olivia Adams finds solace in the sky.
The sophomore pole vaulter sets her sights to the heavens when she plants her jumping pole and elevates some 11 feet in the air, far above the rest of the field.
"I like flinging," Adams said in a phone interview. "Pole vaulting is really fun."
Adams currently paces all Class 1A athletes this year with a mark of 11 feet, 3 inches in the pole vault, making her the top seed entering the 1A State Track and Field Championships Friday and Saturday, May 24-25, at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
"I'm really hoping I can keep my confidence up at state and do really well," Adams said. "But sometimes, the pressure gets to me, but I hope it won't. I hope I do well at state."
This will be Adams' second trip to state. She placed seventh in the pole vault last year while running a leg for the Borderites' state championship 4x400 relay.
Blaine coach Carey Bacon has noticed a level of comfort overtake Adams when competing in the pole vault.
That, he said, is what sets her apart from a majority of the field.
"I think the whole experience of getting up over the bar and inverting is exciting for her," Bacon said in a phone interview. "She is not afraid to jump. It is something you have to have being a vaulter."
At the 1A tri-district meet on Saturday, May 18, at King's, Adams set a personal best, but the moments following were bittersweet. The school record at Blaine is 11-6, and Adams thought the bar was set to that height, meaning she would have tied the record.
"My coach had put it at 11-3 without telling me, so I was actually kind of disappointed when I saw it at 11-3," Adams said. "But I was excited I got a personal best."
Considering that the next highest mark in the 1A pole vault heading into the state meet is a 10-6 by Lakeside's Farrahn O'Hara, Adams' goals are likely a bit beyond the rest of the field's capabilities. Most likely nobody else is eyeing a mark as lofty as 11-6, which is what Adams believes she can reach at the state meet this weekend.
Reaching such a feat takes a certain level of dedication Adams has come to relish, staving off all other events and focusing solely on the pole vault. Blaine even has a dedicated pole vault coach, Rob Ridnour.
Ridnour, Bacon said, has helped Adams work on the finite intricacies that are so difficult in the pole vault, stuff that he can't work on with her.
"You have to learn to plant the pole; you have to learn how to invert, and inverting is very difficult to do when you get completely upside down," Bacon said. "You have to learn how to turn and go over the bar and release the pole, and those are all things that are hard to do, and you have to get over the idea of being completely upside down when you are going straight up in the air."
Ridnour attributes Adams' elite athleticism to her ascension in the sport.
"She's just really a competitor, a real good athlete, and she can handle her body well," Ridnour said in a phone interview. "Not afraid to get upside down, not afraid to get up on heights ... really tough mentally, and at meets she jumps her best."
It also helps that when Adams began the track season, she entered in peak physical shape after finishing the girls' wrestling season.
Adams has wrestled the past two seasons, and just this past season she earned a first-team All-Whatcom County selection following a season in which she earned her second-consecutive berth to the state. She also won her first tournament, topping the field in the Woolley Women's Wrestling Tournament and the Northwest District Sub-Regional.
"She learned how to work hard, in that respect, and it's a strengthening thing, too - using your arms and your legs," Bacon said. "It helped her in terms of having to step up in competition in one on one with somebody, where it is just you and somebody else."
Bacon said that while the one-on-one aspect has little to do with track, it has everything to do with the mindset heading into an event one seeks to win.
Adams' mentality and skill set drew comparisons from Ridnour to former Blaine standout and pole vault record holder Robin Taylor. Taylor, who was also coached by Ridnour, won the 2A state pole vault championships three consecutive years and took third as a freshman.
"The bigger the meet, the better she is," Ridnour said. "She's like Robin Taylor in that effect. ... She has the same capabilities.
"When the lights are on, you have to come and bring it, and she usually does."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.
CLASS 1A STATE TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Friday and Saturday, May 24-25
Where: Eastern Washington University, Cheney