SHIPPENSBURG - Everyone knew that Charles Wilson-Adams was capable of capturing Class AA boys high jump gold, but, after a disappointing showing at districts for the second straight year, the Tyrone Area High School junior was finding clearing medium-6-foot heights at states to be a slippery situation.
Turns out there was a good reason for that.
"In practice this week, we were doing five-steps, and I was getting 6-4 and 6-5 easily. When I didn't get it here, it was really frustrating me. Another thing was that my shoes actually started melting because it was so hot. I'd slip, then I'd have to wipe it with my towel, and I'd have to try it again,'' Wilson-Adams said. "I just used more speed and got more power.''
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Tyrone junior Charles Wilson-Adams cleared 6-feet-8 inches to win the PIAA?Class AA high jump title Saturday.
Once Wilson-Adams made the adjustment, the heat was squarely on his competition, and they were the ones melting under his glare.
Wilson-Adams cleared 6 feet, 8 inches to overcome a very strong field and win his event at the PIAA Track and Field Championships on a scorching Saturday afternoon at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium.
When asked how it felt to have the gold medal placed around his neck, Wilson-Adams' eyes lit up. He described almost surreal emotions.
"It feels great. This is the best feeling in my life. It feels great,'' Wilson-Adams said. "It was so weird, because I always knew that I could win, but, deep down inside, I don't think I knew that it would happen. It was strange. Now that I got it, I can't explain how great I feel.''
Schuylkill Valley's Jared Horne finished second at 6-7. Northern Bedford junior Zach Pressel medaled for the second year in a row by jumping 6-5; this time it gave him fourth place.
Horne was clean through 6-6, meaning Wilson-Adams was going to have to keep going to new heights to beat him. That was fine with Wilson-Adams.
Wilson-Adams had cleared as high as 6-10 this spring and even had achieved 6-8 on multiple occasions, so it was apparent he was a major threat. However, the rest of the field was challenging - he only was seeded as one of several competitors tied for seventh. Six other jumpers had seeding heights of 6-5 or higher.
"Seeds really mean nothing. I knew coming in I was a low seed, but that actually motivated me,'' Wilson-Adams said. "I knew I could do better than that.''
Regardless of what a competitor does during the year, seeding at states - in fact, even qualifying for states - is based entirely on performance at the district meet. As a sophomore, Wilson-Adams clearly had the ability to medal at states, but he didn't finish in the top two or meet the state qualifying at the 6-AA championships.
At this year's district meet, history seemed to be repeating itself. However, this time, Wilson-Adams managed to adance, albeit with a 6-4 result that was far below his expectations.
Wilson-Adams, who feels his speed is the biggest key to his success, chalked that up to being fatigued from competing in the triple jump at the same time in the high jump and being out of rhythm. He said he made few changes as he prepared for the PIAA meet.
"It never pressured me. I just knew that no matter how high I could jump, it matters what I do on that day,'' Wilson-Adams said. "I was just focused.
"I was just trying to come out today and do everything to perfection.''
Wilson-Adams always had the tools to succeed in the event. Former Golden Eagle track coach Tony Yaniello convinced him to take up the high jump after watching the now-6-footer dunking in basketball ... in seventh grade. More recently, he's been working with Wally Miller from Somerset to improve his technique to get the most out of his raw skills.
Wilson-Adams would like to continue high jumping in college, but there's still a lot of time before that becomes a reality.
"I get letters in college, but my mom keeps them,'' Wilson-Adams said. "I'm not allowed to read them, because school comes first. That's her rule.''
The fifth-place finisher last season, Pressel was happy if not entirely satisfied with his result.
"I felt pretty good. I wanted to get 6-7, but it didn't work out that way. I still got fourth. That's better than last year,'' Pressel said. "I had some doubts that I would be able to repeat last year's place, just knowing there were all these good jumpers.''
Pressel's height actually tied him with Jacob Herbstritt of Elk County Catholic, but the latter garnered the better finish because he had fewer misses.
Pressel described his initiation to the event as basically a roll of the dice.
"They just kind of threw me in there because they knew I could jump somewhat. It just took off from there,'' Pressel said.
It appears to have paid off, and he'll be back next year to try to give Wilson-Adams a run for his money.
"Hopefully I can get 6-7 eventually and maybe event 6-8,'' Pressel said.
Two other area boys also were in the event. Northern Bedford's Justin Baker and Penn Cambria's James Mardula finished as part of a six-way tie for 12th. Both made 6-0.