Halie Hawkins clears a jump during the recent TSSAA state meet held at Middle Tennessee State University. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

Halie Hawkins concluded her athletic career at Unicoi County High School with a top-10 finish in the pole vault at the TSSAA Spring Fling Track Championships held at Middle Tennessee State University on Thursday, May 23.

“Halie finished the day in ninth out of 16 vaulters and a jump of 9 feet,” UCHS head coach Thad Higgins told The Erwin Record. “It’s always a proud moment to have any athlete represent UCHS at the state meet, but to have an athlete be one of the top 10 vaulters in the state is really incredible. I was also proud of how Halie overcame unexpected obstacles and remained mentally tough. We’re so proud of Halie for how she competed throughout this entire season and especially for how well she represented UCHS at the state championship.”

Going back to the state meet for the second time was a special experience for Hawkins, who will continue her track and field career at Milligan College next year.

“Getting to represent your school and town at the state meet is an amazing experience,” Hawkins said. “The atmosphere is unlike any other meet I have ever been to. When an athlete hears the phrase, ‘You are going to Murfreesboro,’ you can’t help but get excited. It’s the best of the best. Being among the top track and field athletes in the whole state is really cool.”

This year, Hawkins competed in a different division than she did two years ago due to reclassification by the TSSAA.

“We moved up to the large schools division,” Hawkins said. “This made getting to state much more difficult these past two years. Last year it was heartbreaking when I just missed the cut at sectionals by one placing. This year I knew I had to work really hard to make crucial vaults in order to even make it to state.”

Hawkins qualified for the state meet with a jump of 10 feet at the sectionals held at Hardin Valley on May 11.

“Our section has become very competitive, specifically in pole vault,” Hawkins said. “There are about four of us in this section that are from different schools. We have become really good friends and we have pushed one another, as a result all our heights have increased. We compete against one another but are the ones cheering one another on. We borrow poles, hang out before and after our vaults – even the coaches are really helpful to all of us. It’s very unique. We are all going on to vault in college so it will be fun to continue that.”

Hawkins said last week’s state competition started out well.

“In warmups I felt fantastic,” she added. “In fact I had my best vault I have ever had. When the bar went up however I had a crucial first miss at my opening height of 9 feet. When it’s hot the poles tend to flex a lot more and I was feeling really good and carried some extra energy into it so I hit it on the way up. I regrouped and made it on my next attempt, but it still hurt my overall placing.”

At the next height – 9’6” – Hawkins ran into some bad luck.

“I had three unlucky misses,” she said. “This sport is notorious for having lots of variables. Some days it comes together for you and others the variables just get kind of tricky. You can change one little thing and it has an impact on five others. The strides, my energy, pushing the standards back or forward, which pole I use, how high my grip is on the pole, what height I enter competition at, all that has to come together on top of what I do to take off and turn in the air. It’s so much to think about. That’s what I love about it though.”

Despite the bad luck, Hawkins said she is ready to continue competing.

“Even the top vaulter in the state can have a bad day and no height,” she added. “For me the pieces just didn’t quite come together on Thursday. I still ended up ninth though. Top 10 in the state isn’t bad. I am super excited to see what heights the next season holds.”