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Top pole vaulters catapult NA boys to WPIAL championship

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
North Allegheny junior pole vaulter Bobby Upton helped clinch NA's 2014 AAA WPIAL boys team championship in track and field.
North Allegheny senior pole vaulter Rob Wanner played a key role in NA's 2014 AAA WPIAL boys team championship in track and field.
North Allegheny sophomore Madeleine Davison (center) is flanked by coaches John Neff and Nicole Carter after placing second in the 1,600-meter race at the state individual championships.
North Allegheny senior Fritz Isaac, shown here doing the triple jump, has competed in seven separate events during his track and field career and is NA's all-time points leader with 629.25

In track and field, a sport where individual effort often overshadows a team's overall performance, one championship-defining event brought together all of North Allegheny's athletes.

The AAA WPIAL boys team championship came down to North Allegheny's top two pole vaulters, junior Bobby Upton and senior Rob Wanner. Up two points over Mt. Lebanon as the vaulting began, Upton and Wanner needed to place in at least second and third to earn the team championship last month.

While the event directly affected the boys team, the girls also were invested in the outcome.

“Absolutely, definitely,” said sophomore Madeleine Davison. “All the girls, everyone, was there. We watched the two-mile, a thrilling race, and then we watched the pole vault. We were involved in encouraging the boys in their meet, and it's awesome to see them do well. That rubs off on us a little bit.”

Upton's 13-foot second-place vault and Wanner's third-place 12-foot vault catapulted North Allegheny's boys to a 75½-74½ victory over Hempfield and a second consecutive team championship.

Their teammates had faith in them.

“By then, we pretty much felt we had it, because we knew if they got their heights, we'd win,” said senior Fritz Isaac. “It was exciting for them to make it and to get that trophy in our hands.”

Isaac, 18, of McCandless competed in seven separate events throughout his high school track and field career and is North Allegheny's all-time point leader at 629.25.

Upton and Wanner said, however, they didn't view making championship-clinching vaults as a sure thing.

In the weeks prior to the team championship, Upton had dealt with a right-heel injury. He had to alter his second-to-last step before his vault to compete.

“Instead of keeping my foot flat, I had to make contact with my toe,” said Upton, 17, of Marshall Township. “It didn't change how well I did, but it was nerve-racking to change something that I had always done one way.”

Wanner, 18, of McCandless, said his inconsistency throughout the season also could have changed the team's fortunes.

“I haven't had a consistent season, so I either did well or didn't do well at all,” Wanner said. “I'd say it's almost a mental thing. It's really a mental sport because of how technical it is. Some days, I just didn't have good days.”

North Allegheny placed second at the AAA WPIAL girls team championship.

“It's really amazing to go home, and everyone is happy to do so well as opposed to just one team doing really well,” Davison, 16, of McCandless said.

Davison eventually placed second in the AAA WPIAL and state individual 1,600-meter races.

She shaved 17 seconds off of her mile from her freshman year to her sophomore year.

“I love the fact that in our district there are such excellent runners, and the competition in any given meet is always great,” Davison said. “I think the level of competition in our district is really the key to my success, because we all push each other every meet.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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