Track and field records typically don’t endure for half a century the way the boys pole vault standard did at Franklin High School.
Throughout the decades, countless Grizzly Cubs vaulters tried to best 13 feet, 11¾ inches, only to leave the competition disappointed.
Finally, one has.
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On May 2, senior Payton Utterback cleared 14 feet to win at the Mid-State Conference meet at Greenwood. His performance in less-than-ideal weather conditions erased the mark set in 1967 by Doug Dougherty.
“It was something spectacular,” Utterback said. “I saw the record up there my freshman year, and I know my dad (1985 Franklin graduate Ty Utterback) was chasing the same record.
“He’s the one who started me on pole vault. My older brother (Drew) tried for it, too. It was a great relief when I finally broke it.”
Utterback’s ascent both literally and figuratively as a pole vaulter wasn’t immediate.
As a freshman he tied for sixth place at the Columbus North Sectional with a best of 11-6. Utterback came in fourth there in 2015 by clearing 11-10, and he tied for second last season with a top vault of 12 feet.
Getting to compete on his home track at the 2016 Franklin Regional, Utterback placed sixth with a vault of 12-6. Along with his record-setting effort this season, he took second in the Johnson County meet by making it over a height of 13-6.
“Peyton is kind of a typical late bloomer physically and athletically, but right now he’s probably at the top of his game,” said Mike Hall, the program’s head coach since 1986.
“He’s really put in an awful lot of time and hard work to get to this point. He’s made progressions in an incremental fashion the way you would want to do it. Right now as a senior, he’s performing the best he’s ever done.”
Utterback feels he is capable of going 14-6. He hopes to do so at some point during the upcoming postseason — preferably at the State Finals on June 2 at Indiana University.
He also hopes to one day meet Dougherty, whose name remained on Franklin’s record board for an extraordinary five decades.
“I would like to hit 14-6 at the regional and secure my spot at state,” said Utterback, referring to the Warren Central Regional on May 25. “I haven’t vaulted there, but I watched the girls vault there before, and it looks pretty nice.”
A rundown of some of the notable local names to keep an eye out for at today’s Franklin Sectional:
Center Grove: Matt Fleener (400, 4×400); Christian Goines (110 hurdles, high jump, long jump); Trevor Hohlt (300 hurdles, 4×100, 4×400); Grant Mason (100, 200, 4×100)
Franklin: Joshua Campbell (1,600, 3,200); Travis Murr (100, 200, long jump); Chandler McGaha (800, 4×800, high jump); Payton Utterback (pole vault)
Greenwood: Ethan Pine (1,600, 4×800); Nick Young (shot put, discus)
Indian Creek: Noah Maness (discus)
Whiteland: Jacob Ballain (pole vault), Ryder Emberton (shot put, discus)
Columbus North Sectional
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Teams competing: Center Grove, Edinburgh, Franklin, Greenwood, Greenwood Christian, Indian Creek, Whiteland, Columbus East, Columbus North, Hauser, Southwestern (Shelbyville), Waldron