ANSONIA – If Brock Shellhaas and Matthew Shook have their way, the two Ansonia pole vaulters will stand together on the podium at the state track and field meet Friday evening.
Shellhaas and Shook both qualified for the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet in the Division III boys pole vault. They’ll compete alongside each other at 4 p.m. Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
“It’s huge sending two,” Ansonia boys track and field coach Clint Neal said of the two Tigers qualifying for state together. “I think this is probably the first time we’ve sent two in one event.”
Shellhaas, a sophomore, is returning to the OHSAA state meet for a second consecutive year. As a freshman he cleared 14 feet 2 inches and finished sixth in the state.
“You’re competing with the best in the state and the best in the area so to be back and to show you’re at the top it’s always a humbling moment to realize you’re one of the best,” said Shellhaas, who cleared 14 feet 8 inches at last week’s regional meet.
Shook, a junior, qualified for the state meet for the first time in his career, but he’s very familiar with the state meet. Shook’s sister, Samantha Shook, was a four-time state qualifier in the girls pole vault and finished as the Division III state runner-up as a junior in 2013.
“It’s pretty exciting because I saw my sister do it all four years,” Shook said of qualifying for state. “It’s always been kind of my goal to get there and podium like she did all four years, but I wasn’t able to do it up until this point, but I’m happy to be here now.”
Now that he’s qualified for state, Shook would like to finish in the top eight and earn his own spot on the podium.
Shellhaas, meanwhile, has set his sights on winning the Division III state championship.
“I would love to bring home a state championship to Ansonia,” he said. “That’s the one thing I’ve always wanted for Ansonia. We don’t have a state champion boys team, and to have that would be super cool.”
Shellhaas has been slowed down this season by a hamstring injury he suffered in January. It still flairs up sometimes, he said, but he’s getting closer to 100 percent.
“Every day has been a battle just to stay healthy, and to get back to this has just been a huge stress reliever,” Shellhaas said. “Now it’s just time to enjoy the ride and jump well.”
Preparing for the state meet this year has been less stressful, Shellhaas said, because of last year’s experience competing in Columbus. He feels more confident and more comfortable than he did a year ago.
Shellhaas also is enjoying having Shook by his side this time around.
“It’s a lot more enjoyable having another person to jump with and enjoy the ride with,” he said.
The two Ansonia vaulters push each other, which they expect to be beneficial when they compete at this week’s state meet.
“It’s good just to feed off both of our energy,” Shook said. “He hypes me up. I hype him up. It increases our talent, I guess.”
Both Ansonia vaulters feel well prepared for this moment because of the level of competition they faced throughout the year. The Southwest District was the only one in the state to produce four vaulters who went over 13 feet 8 inches in the Division III regional meets.
“We’re already competing with some of the best in the state on a regular basis,” Shellhaas said. “That helps train us to be prepared for big meets and big heights.”
Now all that’s left is for the two Tiger vaulters to show the state what they’re capable of in Columbus.
“I think it’s a good chance to showcase our talents and showcase our school,” Shook said.