CHARLESTON — Josie Held just had to watch.
The Mount Zion senior was relegated to watching her lifelong friend, and rival, Aliyah Welter of Monticello attempt one final vault at 12-feet, 9 inches on Saturday in the pole vault at the Class 2A girls state track and field finals.
The stakes were simple: If Welter missed, Held would have her first state championship. If Welter made the height, a season personal record, the show would go on.
Welter missed, handing Held the state championship and giving Welter second place.
“In that moment, I knew that was a PR bar for her," Held said. "I really wanted her to get that because I knew she would be so ecstatic to PR. I wanted it, she wanted it. I just wanted everybody to be happy.
“It’s more than a competition."
Held was overwhelmed. She finished fourth as a freshman and second as a sophomore and junior before inking the last chapter of her high school career as a state champion.
"Me, her. Me, her. We always went back and forth on the podium," Held said. "I’m so happy that we could both have an opportunity to be up on the first-place podium and be together."
After the race, they embraced, wishing each other well before Held vaults at the University of Illinois, and Welter at the University of Louisville.
“No matter the place, no matter the height, we’re always rooting for each other to do the best that they can do," Welter said.
Held also had a good luck charm, her freshman sister Rhiannon, who finished fifth with a height of 12-0.
“I’m really proud of her," Rhiannon said. "I wanted her to win her last meet and she definitely exceeded my expectations.
“She was also mine (good luck charm)."
Nettles clad in silver
Kenli Nettles never really eats the morning before big meets. On Saturday, she tried two pieces of cantaloupe and told her mother that was all her nerves would allow.
Eventually, her nerves subsided, and she turned in a big day. Nettles, a sophomore at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, finished second in the high jump (5-5), second in the 100-meter high hurdles (14.91 seconds), second in the 300-meter low hurdles (45.72) and eighth in the triple jump in Class 1A.
“I’m so pleased. I could not have asked for a better day," Nettles said.
When she got to O'Brien Stadium, Nettles ran back and forth between the triple jump and high jump.
Then a downpour came in to delay the high jump.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ I had a few eye rolls in there," she said. "It washed away my steps so I kind of guessed where I was at and I went from there. It didn’t mess anything up. I was disappointed that it rained. It doesn’t bother me in the rain, but I would rather have it be sunny."
A junior performance like Nettles' will catch the eye of colleges.
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"I think people know my name now and that’s exciting, not only for me, but for my school," Nettles said. "Then college coaches will hopefully be writing me letters soon."
Baltimore finally medals
Eisenhower's Alyssa Baltimore has been climbing the board for years.
Finally, in her senior season, possibly the final high jumps of her life, she won a medal at state, finishing in ninth place in Class 2A high jump with with a height of 5-3.
“I was pretty happy about it," Baltimore said. "If I had one more inch I could probably get a little higher placing-wise, but I’m pretty happy where I’m at right now. I wanted to get a medal this year. Every year I’ve progressed."
The Class 2A competition was delayed by rain, which actually played to Baltimore's favor. She sat inside the indoor complex, ate peanut butter, listened to music and finally calmed down.
“When they called it I was like, ‘It’s your last time. You’ve just got to go. Go do what you know how to do and what you’ve been doing your whole life," she said.
Ness makes a splash
Emelia Ness watched the O'Brien Stadium scoreboard, eagerly awaiting her place in the Class 2A 100 hurdles.
She said it felt like years.
Eventually, the board read 14.71, good enough for third place. She ran over, and hopped in Welter's arms to celebrate.
"I saw (Dunlap's Brittany) Rainey got second and I was like, ‘I remember being right next to her,’ and I was looking at the board and waiting like what did I get? I was overfilled with joy. That was the best outcome I could have hoped for," Ness said.
Ness, a sophomore at Monticello, finished fourth in the 300 hurdles.
Her victories haven't hit her yet.
“Tomorrow hopefully it will come to me, but right now I’m on cloud nine," she said.
Monticello's Emma Helferich finished sixth in the long jump.
Cardinals surprise some
When Warrensburg-Latham's Brittney Oakley took the handoff in the final leg of the Class 1A 4x200-meter relay, she had some work to do to close the gap on the runners ahead of her.
She didn't want to finish last. Her eyes were set on second or third.
Eventually, Oakley burst to second place. But she heard announcer Matt Piescenski announce that Kamryn Kolb of Manlius Bureau Valley was closing the gap.
Kolb passed Oakley to finish second, but the Cardinals came a long way after winning the event last year.
“A lot of people didn't think that we could do it and we wanted to prove them wrong," Oakley said of her team that included MiKayla Leathers, Ashley Lyons and Channing Grace Johnston.
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25