FORTVILLE — In front of thousands of bellowing Hoosiers, he will see nothing but the bar in front of him.

He will relax his shoulders and listen to the nothing but the sound of his own exhales.

He will feel no nerves, no timidity, only the cold metal pole his hands.

And then he will attack.

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He will barrel down the runway, long blond hair flowing behind him, and thick-bodied, like a running back linebackers are afraid to tackle.

But there will be no defenders in his way. There is only one opponent. The bar.

Mid-sprint, he will be of one mind: Hit the mark. And when he does, he will plant his pole in the ground and go.

From there, it’s a blur.

“You either clear the bar, or you don’t,” Mt. Vernon pole vaulter Lincoln Hine said. “You either let out a deep sigh of relief or a sigh of disappointment. But no matter what, you get up and do it again.”

Hine, his head coach Bruce Kendall said earlier this season, is a machine. He locks in. He jumps. He wins. He repeats.

On Friday, the conference, county, sectional and regional pole vaulting champion has one more hurdle left to clear: the IHSAA Track and Field State Finals in Bloomington.

This final obstacle will no doubt be Hine’s toughest challenge to date. With a career-high jump of 12 feet, 10 inches, Hine will be asked to clear 13 feet to begin the day.

Can he do it?

“Absolutely,” said Mt. Vernon pole vaulting coach Tim Leonard. “But it’s not going to be easy.”

That’s OK, though, Leonard said. It wouldn’t be worth it if it was. Anyway, the sport didn’t come easy to Hine, so why should succeeding at it be any different?

When Hine walked out onto the Mt. Vernon track as a freshman, Leonard said, he knew almost immediately Hine would be a pole vaulter.

Not because he was preternaturally gifted at the event or anything like that. But because he couldn’t do anything else.

Pole vaulters, Leondard said, are usually the kids who are fast, but not fast enough to run sprints. Strong, but not strong enough for the throwing events. They are those with jumping ability, but not enough for the high jump or long jump.

“He told me once that if it wasn’t for the pole vault, he probably wouldn’t even be on the team,” Leonard recalls with a chuckle. “Which is funny because when he first started, he couldn’t put one foot in front of the other down the runway.”

That didn’t last long, though.

Hine picked up the sport quickly and earned a regional bid by finishing third at sectionals with a jump of 10 feet his freshman year.

The next season, he came in second at sectionals behind his Mt. Vernon mentor Chase Harker with a jump of 11-6.

In his junior year, he reached 12 feet and claimed his first sectional title.

Now, after earning his first bid to the State Finals, Hine has gone from an also-ran to a member of the Indiana pole-vaulting elite.

What makes the ascent most impressive, Leonard said, is that it is all the result of Hine’s determination.

“He’s put in the work,” Leonard said. “It’s that simple.”

Not only is Hine one of the most dedicated workers in practice, Leonard said, but he chooses to spend his off-time honing his craft. The past couple of summers, Hine attended pole vaulting camps around the state. And perhaps most important to his development, he hit the weight room, hard. Hine added nearly 35 pounds of muscle since his freshman year.

“No, I’m not a natural,” Hine said. “But I’m not sure anyone is in pole vaulting. It is not a natural thing for the human body to do. … What I know is you have to love it. You can’t put in the work that you have to unless you do.”

When he is finished Friday, he will leave, Leonard said, as one of the top five pole vaulters in Mt. Vernon school history.

“It makes me so happy that Lincoln has the opportunity to compete at state,” Leonard said. “He is in the top five pole vaulters I have ever coached, but I don’t know if anyone has ever loved the sport as much as him.”

Familiar faces

Hine will not be making the trek down to the University of Indiana alone. Joining him in Bloomington will be teammates Christian Noble (3,200-meter run), Aaron Rush (1,600-meter run) and fellow pole vaulter Kyle Forsythe.

Hine also will see the familiar faces of county foes, including New Palestine Chris Poturalski (400-meter dash), Greenfield-Central’s Zach Phillips (discus) and the Cougars’ 3,200-meter relay team made up of Jason LaFord, Nate Brand, Zach Bishop and Syrus Fletcher.

Lincoln Hine

Name: Lincoln Hine

Age: 19

School: Mt. Vernon

Grade: Senior

Family: Parents Jay and Emily Hine; sisters Lauren (15) and Lilia Hine (5)

City: Greenfield

Sport: Track and field

Varsity letters: 4

Event: Pole Vault

Highest jump: 12 feet, 10 inches

Future: Deciding between Franklin College and the University of Indianapolis, where he plans to continue pole vaulting.

Favorite part of pole vaulting: “The fall. I love the fall. When you clear that height, maybe it’s your personal best, there’s nothing better than coming back down those 13 feet enjoying what you just did.”

At a glance

The IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals

When: Events begin at 3 p.m., Friday

Where: Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, Indiana University, Bloomington

Admission: $10

Order of Events:

3 p.m.: Pole Vault, Long Jump and Discus

3:30 p.m.: High Jump; Shot Put

4:15 p.m.: 3200 Meter Relay Finals

5:00 p.m.: 100 Meter Dash Trials

5:15 p.m.: 110 Meter High Hurdle Trials

5:40 p.m.: 200 Meter Dash Trials

6:10 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies

6:15 p.m.: 110 Meter High Hurdles

6:25 p.m.: 100 Meter Dash

6:35 p.m.: 1600 Meter Run

6:45 p.m.: 400 Meter Relay

7:05 p.m.: 400 Meter Dash

7:20 p.m.: 300 Meter Intermediate Hurdles

7:45 p.m.: 800 Meter Run

8:05 p.m.: 200 MeterDash

8:15 p.m.: 3200 Meter Run

8:30 p.m.: 1600 Meter Relay

Who: Hancock County boasts six individual participants and one relay team. They are:

  • Mt. Vernon: Aaron Rush (1600), Christian Noble (3200), Lincoln Hine (pole vault) and Kyle Forsythe (pole vault)
  • Greenfield-Central: Zach Phillips (discus) and the 4×800 relay team (Jason LaFord, Nate Brand, Zach Bishop, Syrus Fletcher)
  • New Palestine: Chris Poturalski (400)