Sam Beckham brings home state hardware

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By Jenna McKenna

Mark it in the book. Cedar Key School junior Samantha Beckham capped her first state final appearance in the girls' pole vault with a third place finish, nailing a 10-foot vault for the bronze medal.

Beckham had also qualified in the triple jump, but finished 12th, well out of the medals, with a best jump of 32' 7 1/2".

Coach Brad Penney said he was proud of his team and their efforts this year.

"I'm always happy to be here," he said. "In the beginning of the season, you start off with very high hopes, thinking this person or this person can go all the way. You always hope everybody on your team gets first place, but all in all I think we did pretty well."

Freshman Caely Hibbits also qualified for state competition, in the high jump. Hibbits also finished out of the medals, but said her first trip to state was a lot of fun.

"I was really excited to go to state," she said. "It was pretty surprising to me. I hope that next year if I come back..."

"When I come back," Penney prompted.

"...when I come back," she continued, "I can get a medal."

Beckham's 10-foot best height was only exceeded by a 10'6" vault by Holy Trinity's Lindsey Enders and one of 11'6" by defending state champion Katherine Register of South Walton.

This has been a very good year for Cedar Key track and field, starting with the track itself. Just in time for the season, the Levy County School Board, with the help of a donation from Cedar Key native Doug Bishop, developed a parcel adjacent to the baseball and softball fields in Rosewood to provide the school with a track to go with its almost 20-years-old track program.

Sharks in track and field responded to their good fortune by producing a season full of school-record performances. The girls' team three-peated in the county meet, hosted for the first time by Cedar Key.

In the postseason, the Sharks sent Josh Loyd, Justin Speegle, Josh Lumley and Joseph Bishop to regionals, along with Beckham and Hibbits. All six athletes represented their school with excellence.

Beckham's third-in-state performance is a great achievement for her, Penney said.

"She's told me she wants to go to summer vault camp, and I think she'll keep getting better," he said.

Beckham just got a new pole this year, based on her improvement from last year, and with her 11-foot performance at districts, she'll graduate to a longer pole next year, her senior year.

"I wanted to win it," she said. "It didn't work out though, and I'll have to settle for third place - this time. Next year, things will be different."