Popusoi defends state crown
Greenfield High Schol pole vaulter Vlad Popusoi approaches the launching pad during regular-season competition this spring. The Green Wave athlete not only defended his state title Wednesday, but in the process established the All-State Meet record of 15 feet, 6 inches.
Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Vlad Greenfield pole vault 14"
Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
GHS Vlad Popusoi won the pole vault at WMass championships Purchase photo reprints »
WESTFIELD, MA (June 1, 2013) - MIAA All State Track Championship Meet held at Westfield State University. Vlad Popusoi, Greenfield High School, State Champ in Pole Vault. Photo by Beth Reynolds Purchase photo reprints »
Greenfield pole-vaulter extraordinaire Vlad Popusoi had New England-title aspirations coming into Saturday's meet but settled for a respectable third. Recorder/file photo Purchase photo reprints »
Greenfield High School pole vaulter extraordinaire Vlad Popusoi was just looking for a chance to defend his All-State pole-vault championship. He not only did that, but he went down in the record books in the process.
Popusoi set an All-State meet record and pulled off the second best jump ever in the state as he cleared a height of 15 feet, 6 inches to win the MIAA All-State Pole-Vault championship Wednesday at Westborough High School.
The event was a resumption of Saturday’s meet, which ended prematurely when the lights went out and the official in charge of the pole vault left in a huff before the lights came back on 20 minutes later. At that point, five pole vaulters remained and each had taken their first attempt at 13 feet, 9 inches. Only Westborough’s Jack Chuma cleared the height on his first try, and was initially ruled the All-State champion when the MIAA decided to end the meet as it was Saturday night when the lights went out. Pleas from many people convinced the MIAA to change its initial ruling, and the meet was resumed at Westborough.
Even with the resumption, things were not going to be easy for Popusoi or the other four remaining vaulters, who had to pick right up where they left off. That meant that Popusoi and the three other vaulters that had not cleared 13-9 on Saturday, needed to start at that height and had two chances left to clear it. Popusoi normally comes in at 13 feet during meets (competitors can start vaulting at any height they feel comfortable starting at but must clear it or else they “no height” and finish dead last), so 13-9 was a bit higher than where he normally starts, but nothing crazy. Popusoi, who won the All-State meet last season with a then personal-best height of 14 feet, said coming into the day that he was grateful for the opportunity to finish it out, and that he was relaxed.
“I felt no pressure,” the Moldovan-born Popusoi said. “(Greenfield coach Stu Elliott) told me to take it as a practice, and that’s exactly what I did. Everyone came in excited to go, and I figured ‘If you don’t win, you don’t win. There’s always next time.’”
Popusoi was the final of four vaulters that needed to clear 13-9, and after the first three missed, he cleared it. The other three had one more attempt, but failed and were eliminated from the competition. Popusoi said that he felt good going into the competition, and not having to sit around before the start helped him. Popusoi typically has to wait for other pole vaulters to go through the lower heights before he comes in, but due to the meet being resumed, he got going right away and felt loose following his practice jumps.
“We showed up 45 minutes early and I got in some practice jumps, but there was no sitting around,” he said. “It drains everyone when you have to sit around for seven or eight hours. And the weather was perfect. It was cloudy and a little drizzly, and I usually jump good when the weather is like that.”
Popusoi and Chuma moved on to try their hands at 14-3, and Popusoi cleared it on his first attempt. Chuma missed on each of his three attempts, making Popusoi the state champion, although he was far from done. With only him still jumping, Popusoi was able to move the bar to a height of his choosing (usually the bar moves up six inches), and he first moved it to 14-9, which he cleared on his first attempt, making him 3-for-3 on the day. He then had it moved to 15-4, four inches better than his previous personal-best (15 feet), and one inch better than the meet record of 15-3 set by former Westford Academy vaulter Brendan Sullivan in 2012. Sullivan, currently competing for Yale University, is also the state-record holder in the pole vault with a height of 16 feet.
Popusoi missed on his first attempt at 15-4, but cleared it on his second try to set the meet record. He then had the bar moved to 15-6, and he cleared that on his second try, breaking his own meet record just minutes after setting it.
“It’s exciting,” Popusoi exclaimed. “What I did is going to set in later. It’s just crazy.”
He said that going into the day he did not believe he had 15-6 in him.
“To be honest with you, no,” Popusoi said. “It’s six inches above my personal best that I only cleared once. But I was feeling good today.”
Popusoi moved the bar to 15-9 but missed on all three of his attempts and his memorable day was over. Chuma finished second with a height of 13-9, while Westborough’s Jamie Plowman took third at 13-3. Clinton High School’s Anthony Innamorati came in fourth at 13-3, and Nolan Ryan of St. John’s High School of Shrewsbury placed fifth at 13-3.
Next up for Popusoi is the New England meet Saturday at Bridgewater State University.