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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. - Leah Pasqualetti earned an expected victory at Saturday's inaugural Vault Factory's Fourth of July Bash but the win proved to be bittersweet.
The Kent State-bound vaulter was coming off last week's performance at The Vaulter Magazine Stars and Stripes Big Red Barn Meet in Menifee, California where she set a national record of 14-8.25. Pasqualetti, 18, was targeting 15 feet this time around and though she won handily, she fell well short of her goal, topping out at 13-9.
She made three attempts at 14-3 but missed on each. Still, she outdistanced Ohio's Kenna Stimmel and Delaware's Erin Kelleher, each of whom topped out at 13-3. While Pasqualetti didn't hit the mark for which she was hoping, she still recorded a personal-best in the state of New Jersey.
"Fifteen was the big goal today and I fell shy of that," Pasqualetti said. "But if you don't keep trying, you won't make it. That's the mindset I have to have so I will keep trying.
"Ultimately, my form was different today [than last week]. I wasn't dropping my shoulder and that's what caused the problem, I think. That's why it was different. I actually felt different. When I planted I felt like I got sucked under and it was hard to lift my hips and drop my shoulder."
Pasqualetti also had several factors working against her. The midday heat and humidity were far more oppressive than the weather she experienced during a nighttime event in the south central California desert. Additionally, she had won the event after her first jump and without competitors to go against in subsequent rounds, she lost something.
"It does [take away some steam] and here's why," Pasqualetti said. "When it's just you jumping, you have five minutes in between each jump and there is nothing else happening. It seems like everyone is waiting for you. At that point, the competition is over and people are just waiting for the next competition to start."
Pasqualetti came in under the bar on her first attempt at 14-3 and took the bar down with her on her second attempt. She did the same on her third attempt but maintains she was confident going into the jump.
"The third attempt is the one when you prove yourself; it's the jump that's going to keep you going," she said.
She will have two more chances at a record in the coming two weeks with meets in Washington D.C. and Virginia on her calendar. Pasqualetti's coach at the Warsaw Pole Vault Club Mike Auble said he might also have a surprise meet for his protégé following those two meets. He's also confident that Pasqualetti will bounce back.
"I think the biggest difference today was the heat," he said. "She cooled down the best she could but you get hammered with a 96 degree heat index. You don't know how it impacts your legs. Still, it was her second-best jump of the season so we're thrilled. It was a great experience to practice with and get used to. I still it is the start to what will be a magical ride."
Arkansas State-bound Bradley Jelmert also made quick work of the competition in winning the Elite Men's title. He cleared 16-3, besting fellow New Jersey native Brian McSweeney, who bowed out at 16-3. Jelmert then set the bar for 17-feet, ¼ inch but couldn't get over on his three attempts. He brought the bar down with him on his first attempt and failed to reach it on his subsequent tries.
Jelmert cleared 16-10 during the indoor season, was named All-American and was a favorite to win a national title before CoVid-19 forced the championship meet's cancellation.
"Seventeen was the mark," Jelmert said. "I had already made 16-10 and if I had all spring and those meets and practice I probably would have been able to do it. In college, I'll definitely get up there and break 17. It would have been awesome to see."
The day's most exciting moments belonged to 13-year-old Veronica Vacca, who captured the girls' introductory title with a jump of 12 feet, which was 14 inches higher than her previous personal best. The soon to be eighth-grader from Pennsylvania credited a bevy of workouts during quarantine for Saturday's success.
"I was running a lot and working on my form," Vacca said. "And I loved the open atmosphere here today. It was like a big party. There was not a lot of pressure like there is in an actual meet.
"I wasn't expecting to get that high so soon, though. My goal was to get there by the end of the summer so it was really cool to get there now."