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Rutherford reaching new heights in pole vault

In an event full of highs and lows, Ashton Rutherford has run the gamut when it comes to the pole vault.

Take, for instance, the Big Northern Meet on May 15 in Byron. The Oregon senior had a modest goal, but ended up clearing a personal-best height of 14 feet, 3 inches. He added 9 inches to his PR.

"I was just going in there hoping to get 13-6," Rutherford said, "and then I ended up having great runs and stayed consistent. I was getting great pop-up out of the pole, a lot of spring, so it was sending me higher. I ended up going straight up instead of out like I usually do.

"I finally got in the groove, and started to peak at the end of the season when I need to."

He even took a few attempts at 14-7, which is 1 inch higher than the Oregon school record held by Adam Tate. He didn't come close on those tries, but was ecstatic to finish where he did.

"I didn't even know it actually happened," Rutherford said. "I landed on the pad and I was like, 'Did I just make that?' That's insane. I'm so close to the record."

Now, flashback to the Oregon Sectional in 2013. Rutherford had cleared 13-6 and was one of the favorites to advance to the state meet. Instead, his day could have hardly gone worse.

Rutherford scratched on his first attempt at 12-6. On his next two tries, he cleared the bar easily, but clipped it with his elbow on the way down. He was eliminated from the competition, and a state berth, a full foot short of where he had been vaulting.

"I just broke down afterward," Rutherford said, "and I don't want to let that happen again."

Learning from that experience, however, is something that will help Rutherford as he prepares for this postseason, according to Oregon head coach Jim Spratt.

"All of the technique work, stuff that we've done on video, he's gotten better and better in the vault," Spratt said. "Last year, missing out that state trip, it's really kind of fueled him."

It's not just the vault where Rutherford excels for the Hawks. At the Oregon Sectional on Friday, he'll be the top seed in the 300 hurdles with a top time of 41.88, and the No. 2 seed in 110 hurdles with a time of 16.12.

He also runs on the sprint relays, where he teams with seniors Pierce Dhaese and Josh Drew, and sophomore Mitchell Nehrkorn. The foursome figures to be in the mix for state berths, should they run together at the sectional.

A year ago at the sectional, the Oregon 400 relay team of Rutherford, Jake Adams, Tommy McCormick and Nick Newman earned a state berth because the race favorite, Lena-Winslow, dropped a baton. The Hawks went on to finish sixth at state.

"We could possibly duplicate that," Rutherford said. "We have some inexperienced kids, but they have raw power and speed."

Rutherford also competed in football and wrestling at Oregon all 4 years, one of six OHS students to be three-sport, 4-year athletes. The others were Tyler Blume, Dhaese, Ian Starkey, Adam Bettner and Kelci Foss – and they were all recipients of a first-year honor, the Ultimate Hawk Award, for their dedication.

This fall, Rutherford will attend St. Ambrose University and study mechanical engineering. He'll be a member of the track team, and with his background in the pole vault and hurdles, Fighting Bees coaches are toying with the idea of making him a decathlete.

That was no surprise to Spratt.

"He's involved in just about every event we have," Spratt said. "He's just a great multi-event athlete."

Rutherford file

School: Oregon

Class: Senior

FYI: 3-sport (football, wrestling, track) standout for the Hawks. ... Cleared 14 feet, 3 inches in pole vault at last week's Big Northern Conference meet. ... Also top hurdler and sprinter for Oregon

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