SHIPPENSBURG - When Ryan Steinbugl on Saturday afternoon became the first Altoona Area High School pole vaulter to clear the magic, 16-foot mark, it was enough even to get the usually exceptionally soft-spoken and low-key Mountain Lion excited.
"It felt pretty good. I knew I was over it. Actually, it felt awesome,'' Steinbugl said. "But I knew I had to keep going, so I couldn't enjoy it the way I wanted to.''
Steinbugl put forth a landmark effort, so much so that it took a record-setting performance to keep him from winning the Class AAA pole vault in a marathon at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday. Steinbugl wound up settling for the bronze medal.
Altoona’s Ryan Steinbugl took third in the pole vault.
Altoona’s DeShae Lee competes in the high jump en route to a bronze medal on Saturday.
Steinbugl's wasn't the only giant leap to remember for Mountain Lion competitors on the second day of the PIAA Track and Field Championships. DeShae Lee tied Altoona greats Tyler Fedeli and Jamir Washington for the junior class record at the school in tying for third in the high jump by achieving 6-8.
On the track, senior Dylan Mountain picked up an eighth- place medal in the 3200-meter run.
The No. 1 seed entering Saturday, Steinbugl had a vault of 15-4 at the District 6 meet and set the Altoona record with a 15-10 at the Igloo Invitational.
Getting 16-0 normally would be enough to win PIAA gold. However, both Chris Williams of Strath Haven and Jared Allison of Dallastown, two other seniors with outstanding resumes, made the height, Allison by the slimmest of margins.
Williams and Allison went on to tie the meet record by making 16-3. Steinbugl twice came close to joining them - he got over the bar by a wide margin on his second attempt only to brush it with his chest and bring it down, then caught it with his foot on his descent on his third try.
Williams eventually won the event by clearing 16-6 for a new record.
"I thought I was going to clear it,'' Steinbugl said of his attempts at 16-3, "but I knew I was going to miss it, just because of the way I came off the pole.''
It was Steinbugl's second state medal; he placed seventh as a sophomore. However, he missed states as a junior and was feeling edgy on Saturday, and his mindset was a bigger concern than his mechanics.
"I was a little bit anxious, because I just wanted to vault and get it over with. I just really wanted to go. I didn't want to wait around,'' Steinbugl said. "I really had a lot of help from Jared George today. He really kept my head in there, because I was pacing around all nervous. He just said, 'Calm down. You're fine. Just do what you do.'''
"He was having trouble staying focused for awhile. I could tell by looking at him that he was more worried about the other vaulters and not so much about himself,''George said. "I kept trying to make him laugh, make him smile, to keep him from getting so tense. You could see he was getting a little frustrated with himself when he would miss a height.''
Steinbugl, who is headed to St. Francis, has been performing well in the pole vault since he was in junior high school. He didn't want to dwell on his successes, though.
"I just didn't want to be cocky. I wanted to go with it and just do my best. I didn't want to think about it too much,'' Steinbugl said.
Meanwhile, Lee wound knotted with Shawn Johnson of Canon-McMillan for the high jump bronze. Neither of them missed until 6-9.
Milton Hershey's Ibn Short won with 6-10.
Lee said he had something to prove to himself.
"I knew I had it in me, but the whole season I've been out. I haven't really known what my full potential was,'' Lee said. "I still feel that I could have gone higher, but I just came in here ready to compete.''
Besides that, Lee was in pursuit of the class mark co-held by Washington and Fedeli. He had mentioned after winning at the 6-AAA championships that he wanted to eclipse them and getting to states was the only way to do it.
"I'm never nervous. Actually, I was really confident,'' Lee said. "I really wanted to get my name up there on the board for that junior record.''
Lee was consistently making 6-6 in practice, but he only made 6-8 once. Lee didn't begin high jumping until last year, when Lion coach Mike Adams saw him dunking in basketball practice.
"I've gotten frustrated, but I'm really competitive. So I came out here and gave it my all,'' Lee said. "I think I'm going to take track more seriously now, because basketball's my first priority. But track's definitely up there now. I want to come back here next year and go for the state record.''
Mountain hung back around the 11th position for the first half of the race but moved up into the top five for part of a lap in the middle before falling back slightly. Then, in the last 200 meters, he kicked it in and got his medal - he'll be able to put it in his trophy case next to those from cross country and indoor track.
"I knew what place I was. I knew I was either ninth or 10th, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to pass one person if I have it in me,'' Mountain said. "It means a lot, because now I've medaled in all three state meets this season.''
Mountain ran a 9:26.18. He came in seeded at 9:28.33.
"I would have hoped to have been faster, but you can never be disappointed with a state medal,'' Mountain added. "There are so many people in the state looking for these eight medals, so they aren't easy to come by.''
Mountain's teammate, Korey Replogle, finished 15th. His time was 9:37.72.
"I really was hoping [to run with him], but it was his first state meet, and he probably had some nerves. It happened to me really bad last year,'' Mountain said. "We were definitely trying to pace together. We were hoping to snag a couple of middle medal spots.''
The Lions' Rafeeq Barnes was eliminated from the Class AAA 100 in the semifinals, when he ran 11.35 to finish sixth in his heat.