The memory of losing a jump off to go to state last season inspired Independence senior Amanda Pucella to raise the bar, literally.
Last spring, Pucella set a Division II Bedford District Meet record in the pole vault when she cleared 9 feet, 6 inches. She hit the same mark in the Austintown Fitch regional, but Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Whitney Gibbons won a jump off for fourth place and advanced to the state meet.
It was a different story on Saturday at the 2015 district meet, where Pucella cleared 10 feet to break her own record. Gibbons was second with a vault of 9-6.
“I now live by the philosophy, ‘First Jump, Best Jump,’” Pucella said. “I’m ready for next week (at regionals) to qualify for the state meet. I am nervous to not qualify due to my bad luck at past meets, but I’m confident in my vaulting skills now to be consistently over 10. That hopefully will be enough for next week.”
Pucella on Thursday helped the Blue Devils’ 4×400-meter relay team advance to Saturday’s finals. The squad finished seventh. She also ran a leg in the 4×8 relay, which finished fifth, and came in eighth place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:33.14.
“I was really happy with 5th place in the 4×800 and qualifying for finals in the 4×400 on Thursday,” Pucella said. “That really helped start this morning on a good note. Then with pole vaulting so early this morning, I was very happy to just focus on pole vaulting for the first time this year. I knew coming back to the meet after winning last year would be a struggle since the last time I faced CVCA I lost in the in the state jump off, but I didn't let it shake me.”
The 10-foot vault would have been good for 12th place at the 2014 Division II state track meet.
Junior Ellie Clymer also punched her ticket to regionals with a third place finish in the pole vault (8-0).
“It feels awesome and I'm so excited for regionals,” Clymer said. “I’m so glad all the hard work paid off. I was nervous at first but after the first jump I felt confident and ready to go.”
Sophomore Dana Zaccardelli finished second in the 3200-meter run with a time of 11:51.52 and will join Pucella and Clymer in Austintown next weekend.
Sophomore Daniela Radujkovic came up short of qualifying for regionals but she earned valuable points for the Blue Devils, who finished in eight place overall with 33 points.
Radujkovic was seventh in the shot put (28-5) and eighth in the discus throw (84-9).
“I was proud to place,” Radujkovic said. “I think I could have definitely done better in shot put, but all I can do is practice and work for next season.”
She’s confident the experience and confidence she gained this year should help her to move up the standings next season.
“I got to attend a lot more meets so I got used to the competition and how to prepare and get in the right mind frame,” she said. “Last year I was so nervous.”
Zaccardelli, Ashley Pucella and Maria Sagi ran with Amanda Pucella in the 4×8 and Christina Brunsman, Brooke Nelson and Ashley Pucella rounded out the 4×4 relay team.