Last One In: New Pal’s Rossell gets chance to compete at state finals

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New Palestine’s Jack Rossell clears the bar in the pole vault during the Hoosier Heritage Conference Boys Track and Field Championship at Mt. Vernon High School on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Richard Sitler | Daily Reporter

NEW PALESTINE — A part of the lyrics to one of late Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty’s most recognizable songs is, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

New Palestine’s Jack Rossell knows that feeling.

Rossell cleared a career-best, 13-feet, 9-inches in the pole vault competition at the Greenfield-Central Boys Track and Field Regional on Thursday, May 26.

It was a great performance for the Dragon junior, who had won a sectional title the week before in the Greenfield-Central Sectional by vaulting 13-6.

The bad news, it was only good enough to get fifth place at the regional. Only the top-three placers earn automatic advancement to the next round, which in this case is the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s boys track and field state finals.

The good news, there was still a chance.

To complete a field of 27 for the state meet, the IHSAA adds the best non-qualifying performances (often referred to as call backs) to fill the field. There were eight regionals, so 24 spots were already solidified. Four vaulters cleared 14-feet at the Evansville regional, so one of the three spots was taken.

He had to wait until all the results were in. It was a much longer wait than usual. Bad weather across the state forced one of the regionals, which was initially scheduled to be competed last Thursday, too, to postpone its finals until Saturday.

It came down to the last regional held at Lafayette Jefferson High School.

Rossell said he felt confident about advancing, but it wasn’t official. If five vaulters broke 13-9, he would not be among the state competitors.

“After I jumped 13-9 (at the regional) I was told I’d have a medium to medium-high chance to make it to state,” Rossell said. “It was still very nerve-racking. I had someone at (the Lafayette) meet and I had the heat sheet from that regional, so we knew there was still a pretty good chance I’d go to the state meet.”

He said he spent most of that long Saturday trying not to think about it.

“I just tried to keep my mind off it. It was kind of hard. I am always thinking about my performance, so I was watching back my videos and thinking what I could do better,” Rossell said. “I wasn’t getting my hopes up. I knew there was a pretty high chance but I didn’t want to get in my mind that I was going and be let down later.”

Though Rossell had heard positive news from his club coach who was in Lafayette, it was between 10-11 p.m. Saturday night, when the official results were released.

He said he did not know he had officially made it until head coach Eric Branch tweeted out that he was in. He was the last addition to the field of 27 pole vaulters to compete at the state meet.

Rossell will be the lone New Palestine representative at Saturday’s state finals to be held in Bloomington at Indiana University’s Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex.

He is the first pole vaulter from New Pal to go the state since 1999, when Chad Clark represented the Dragons.

Clark is now in his first season as New Palestine’s pole vault coach. He is also the school’s co-record holder in the event with Mark Gilpin (1981) at 14-feet.

He has seen great improvement in Rossell throughout this season. A year ago, during Rossell’s first year pole vaulting, his best jump was 11-6.

“I think the consistency in his vaults (has improved),” Clark said. “The runway, the runs are more consistent and obviously he is maturing, getting stronger and he’s getting meet experience.

“He is always out working. He is doing something every day, even it is in the pool. He works hard and he is one of our leaders out there. It’s his first state meet, he just needs to enjoy it, experience it. You don’t get to do it every day.”

A year ago, Rossell did not qualify out of the sectional meet, but got a call back to compete at the regional. He said it is much different getting a call back to be part of the group that will be vaulting at the state finals.

He wants to take advantage of this new opportunity to improve his skills.

“It’s completely different this year. I know that getting this opportunity, even from a call back, it opens up a door for me to perform well, and a chance to increase my personal best,” he said. “It opens a lot more doors than last year.”

“One thing we always tell the athletes when they are going from sectional to regional there is the call back situation that is very doable,” Branch said. “There are a lot more opportunities to callback from sectional to regional. When you go from regional to state they only take three from the entire state. We try to manage expectations. A lot of athletes will finish outside the top three and immediately say, “I could be a callback,” but then you realize there are only three in the entire state of Indiana. Fortunately for us Jack’s 13-9 was one of the three.”