Bedford's Brittany Kidd and Huntingdon's Bethany Ledford have been vying to be the top high school girl pole vaulter in the area for the last couple of years.
If they had a way to measure who radiated the most positive energy, Kidd and Ledford would probably be up for the gold medal in that, as well.
"She's honestly one of the nicest competitors I've competed against. She always has a smile on her face,'' Kidd said of Ledford. "We always have nice hellos and nice exchanges.''
The effervescent Ledford and the bubbly Kidd will go at it one more time on Friday. Both area seniors are seeded in the top eight at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in the Class AA pole vault, one of the first seven events that will hand out medals at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium this weekend. It's the second straight year both have made it to states in the event.
Not surprisingly, Ledford was upbeat.
"I'm extremely excited,'' Ledford said. "Eleven feet is the best I've gotten this year, but one day in practice this week I got 11-6. I'm so excited. Usually, as long as I get my run on, I'm good. I'm always in a pretty good mood.''
With three of the four girls who finished at a better height than them last year having graduated, there's good reason for optimism. Ledford is tied for the fifth seed entering the meet. Just a couple of inches back in a tie for the eighth is Kidd.
Last year, both vaulted 10 feet, 6 inches at the state meet. However, Ledford finished in a tied for fifth and got a medal, while Kidd was just out of the medals and tied for 10th because of number of misses.
That was actually the first - and only time - Ledford has beaten Kidd head-to-head, although the Lady Bearcat's personal record of 11-0 is 2 inches higher than her friendly rival from the south. Kidd finished higher at the 2009 West Central Coaches Meet in Ledford's first year in the pole vault, then came out on top in the Igloo Invitational and the West Central meet last season, the latter on misses.
Kidd has returned this year to win the Igloo and West Central titles.
"Going into this year, she was very, very motivated,'' Bedford coach Brian Creps said of Kidd. "Earlier in the year, she had an injury, but she's come back from it. She consistently clears 10-6. Last year, that was the magic number. ... She's always the first one to practice and the last to leave. She spent many hours practicing and worked over the summer on the pole vault.''
Kidd has been working with a different, stronger pole - one on which she already has some experience - this week to try to further solidify her shot at the medal stand. Ledford, meanwhile, has been experimenting with a pole that has a little more spring.
"Bethany has been wonderful to have on the team. I always kid her parents that I wish we could hold her back,'' Huntingdon coach Nate Freitag said. "She's thrilled to death. She wants to improve upon that fifth place. We've got to give a lot of credit to our pole vault coach, Adam McBride. We've been moving her up on the pole. Just her experience should help - she's only been doing this for three years.''
Ledford got into the pole vault following in the footsteps of her older sister, Brianne, a two-time PIAA qualifier who was ninth at states as a junior in 2008.
"I thought it was sweet. The coach wanted me to do it, too, as a freshman, but I was already in too many other events,'' Bethany Ledford said.
Like many successful vaulters, Ledford dabbled in gymnastics, again following in her sister's footsteps.
"My sister did it until eighth grade. I didn't do it as long. I wasn't very good at it,'' Ledford said, laughing.
Kidd has a gymnastics background, too. She's been involved in that sport for 15 years, now; in fact, her newly-formed Bedford team placed fourth in the Gold Division at states this winter.
"Gymnastics gets you comfortable with your body and flipping in the air,'' Kidd said. "As a freshman, I ran the hurdles, which definitely was not for me.''
While the hurdles didn't work out for Kidd, she began sprinting to upgrade the speed of her approach for the pole vault. She did so well at it that she helped the Lady Bisons' 400-meter relay team win the District 5 championship and qualify for the state meet.
Some might think going to states in a second event could cause her to lose focus on the pole vault, but Kidd had just the opposite reaction.
"It's actually gotten me more excited for this year,'' Kidd said. "I know it brings more of a team unity. It's like I have another team going, so it's really fun going with the relay.''
Vaulters are often specialists, but Kidd and Ledford break that mold. Ledford, too, will be competing at Shippensburg in multiple events. She's advanced to states in the high jump for the second straight year, and, although she isn't seeded highly, she could bring home a very good medal in that event Friday afternoon if she could match her season record of 5-4.
Ledford plays volleyball for Huntingdon, too, and stays physically active when she's out of school.
"I love going outdoors. Kayaking, rock-climbing,'' Ledford said. "Probably my favorite thing is going mudding on my four-wheeler.''
Then, of course, there is Ledford's No. 1 pastime.
"I love talking to people,'' Ledford said.
That plays well in the pole vault, where the competitors seem to have their own little society as they wait together for each other to jump. While Ledford and Kidd haven't had a chance to get to know each other especially well, having a familiar face is welcome.
"I liked it whenever I was [at states] last year and saw someone I knew,'' Ledford said. "It's always nice to see someone you know.''
It also helps to get the competitive juices flowing even more. Kidd, who has broken the Laurel Highlands Conference pole vault record the last two years, said she feels prepared for states this year - she's cleared 11 feet in practice - and having the equally perky and equally talented Ledford there with her yet again will be incentive to rise to new heights.
"It's a little bit of both. She makes me more comfortable. She doesn't necessarily make me nervous, because she is so nice and we get along,'' Kidd said. "But she does make me want to do better. She makes me want to go higher obviously than her and makes me want to push myself even more.''