While going to state is an annual occurrence for Reagan Mabery and Rodie Brister is making his first appearance in the elite event, the two Tolar pole vaulters have grown to depend on each other in their ultimate quest for gold.
“I have learned from Reagan that there are plenty of good restaurants down there,” said Brister with a grin.
“No, her and coach (Scotty) Miller both say it’s fast (at state) and that you need to take some extra poles.”
Mabery, normally the quiet and reserved type, said preparing alongside Brister has helped her relax some.
“If I don’t get something right, he’s there to reassure me,” she said.
“When we work out, it’s nice to have him. I’m not just by myself anymore.”
Both Brister and Mabery are coming into Austin having vaulted their best of the season at the Region II Meet at Tarleton State University recently. Brister, in fact, broke his own school record by clearing 14 feet, while Mabery matched her career-best with 11 feet.
Both won gold medals as Tolar extended its streak of having competitors at state to seven consecutive seasons.
Brister’s regional victory required a little extra work, Miller said.
“A vaulter can usually hit six to eight competitive vaults in a meet. He hit 14 and only had two misses,” said Miller. “It was pretty incredible. That competition lasted about three hours.”
Brister said he also received inspiration from his pee wee football coach.
“He told me it was the fourth quarter of a football game, and this next jump was the last play,” said Brister. “And so I used all I had left and made it over the bar to win.”
Then came the immediate message to the girlfriend with the good news.
“It was a cool feeling just being able to text my girlfriend saying, ‘Hey, I won! I’m going to state!,’” said an excited Brister.
“I have always wanted to make it to state since I started vaulting in the seventh grade, and now I can’t believe I’m actually fulfilling that dream.”
Mabery, who admits being competitive to the point that she often forgets to enjoy herself, also found a bright face at regionals, said Miller.
“She did some things really well,” he said, adding with a grin, “She actually smiled a few times.
“At 10-6 and 11 she went way over. She’s always had the capacity for 12 feet.”
Mabery enters state as the third seed behind Madison Pecot of White Oak (12-0) and Caroline Bellows of George West (11-6). Bellows was fourth last year.
Brister is seeded seventh entering state, but only six inches separates places 3-8. Defending champion Daven Murphree of Big Sandy Harmony is the top seed, having cleared 17 feet, more than two feet ahead of second-seeded Riley Lakin of White Oak (14-9).
Brister, however, appears to find more height each time he competes. And with the switch to bigger poles, he’s confident he’ll once again have his best vault.
“My dad bought me some 15-3 poles, and they make a big difference,” said Brister. “They have a lot more bend in them, and you can just lay back and let them shoot you (over the bar). If I didn’t have those bigger poles at regionals, I probably would not have won. That’s the difference they make.”
Likewise, Mabery is confident her best vault will come this weekend.
“My last few practices have been really good. I feel something good coming on,” she said.
And, much like things have been in practice this season, Mabery and Brister plan to have fun along with competing this weekend at Mike Myers Stadium.
“I have fun pole vaulting, but I’m so serious about it,” said Mabery. “But my goal this week is to just enjoy it all and have some fun. I figure everything else will take care of itself.”