COPPERAS COVE — Jack Zumwalt finally found his focus.
After three consecutive seasons of disappointment, the Harker Heights’ senior delivered the performance he was waiting for Wednesday, when he won the District 12-6A championship in the pole vault.
The gold-medal showing comes after placing fifth overall in the event as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
Although Zumwalt’s physical mechanics were critical to the outcome, he believes the success was due to his mental approach.
“I’ve had a lot of distractions this season,” Zumwalt said, “so it feels good to win this, but I feel like my mind was a lot more prepared for this meet.
“A big part of the pole vault is mental. It’s not just physical, so if the mental aspect isn’t right then nothing is going to go right.”
Zumwalt matched his personal best by clearing 13 feet, 6 inches during the opening day of the district meet, which consisted of some field events, the 3,200-meter run finals and the running preliminaries.
While Zumwalt fell just shy of setting a personal best, Copperas Cove triple jumper Donte Irving exceeded his previous record on three occasions at his home track.
The Bulldawgs senior ultimately cleared 46-4 to claim the gold medal after entering the meet with a personal-best mark of 43-11.
“It’s all due to great coaching,” Irving said. “We switched up how I practice a couple weeks ago, and that is what really helped me.”
The 3,200 was a race for the opening 2,000 meters as Harker Heights’ Joseph Galvan pulled a tightly compacted pack of runners around the track for the first five laps, before finishing third (10:11.27), narrowly beating teammate Zach Dungan (10:16.50).
Following the completion of four field events and the 3,200, Belton sits atop the standings with 33 points, holding a slim advantage over Ellison (30), while Harker Heights is in third place with 21 points. Killeen is in a fourth-place tie with Midway at 20 points apiece. Copperas Cove (19) and Shoemaker (12) round out the early standings.
In the discus, Bobby Smith, of Killeen, won the event by more than 10 feet with a distance of 171-11½ to beat out Ellison’s Aubrey Kelly (161-11).
Belton accumulated 19 of its points in the high jump as Garrison Vaughn and Davion Peoples finished first and second, respectively, in the event. Both Tigers cleared 6-4 for their best heights, as did Copperas Cove junior Josh Canete, who finished third, but Vaughn won the event based on having fewer missed attempts.
Admittedly, Vaughn drew inspiration from his teammate.
“When Davion cleared 6-4,” Vaughn said, “I was like, ‘I’ve got to get this now.’”
But if Peoples had his way, however, he might have not even competed.
“I was nervous,” the junior said. “I really didn’t even want to jump today because it is hot, but usually when I feel like that, I jump good for some reason.”
The top four competitors from each event advance to the area meet, which will be hosted by Copperas Cove on April 21.
Others athletes to qualify for area include Shoemaker’s Tryi’K Barnes (6-2) and Central Hicks (142-11¼) in the high jump and discus respectively. Additionally, Belton discus thrower Reagan Chapman (134-6) advances, while Ellison pole-vaulters James Turner and Joseph Williams each qualified with heights of 12-6 and will be joined by Belton’s Matt Mahler (12-0).
While Zumwalt will be competing beyond district for the first time in his career, he will also be preparing for an upcoming appearance at a national debate team contest.
Nevertheless, Zumwalt is confident his focus will be on the pole vault when the area meet arrives.
“I have to shut everything out when I’m out here,” he said. “It is all about the mental aspect, so I’ve got to have all my attention on the pole vault.”