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TRACK AND FIELD: Local athletes join competition on Day 3 of regional championships

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Rome's Chloe Tilton clears the bar on her first attempt at 8 feet, 2 and 1/2 inches in the girls' 15-16 pole vault at the 2018 USATF Region 4 Junior Olympic Championships on Saturday, July 7, 2018, at Barron Stadium. / Jeremy Stewart

Chloe Tilton and Ellie Getchell competed in the pole vault at the USA Track and Field Region 4 Junior Olympic Championships. They are the only two local competitors who qualified for the massive event that wraps up today in Rome.

Tilton, 15, is a rising senior at Rome High School, while Getchell, 16, is coming up on her sophomore year at Model High School. Both were in the girls’ 15-16 pole vault competition at Barron Stadium on Saturday morning.

And while neither qualified for the national championships, which are in Greensboro, North Carolina, later this month, they did get the experience of challenging themselves against some of the top athletes in the Southeast.

“Every vault, you learn what you need to do for the next one,” Tilton said. “You have your starting mark and your approach, but depending on the elements it’s going to change. So every vault you have to adjust.”

Tilton ended up eighth out of 20 girls, getting over 9 feet, 8 inches before getting out at the next height of 10-2, which is 1 1/4 inch higher than her personal record she set at the Georgia Junior Olympic Championships last month at Carrollton High School.

 “I feel like even though I didn’t PR, the height I went out at was just above my PR so I feel like I could have done it,” she said. “I’m not really mad at myself. This is still seven inches above my previous PR.”

This past spring saw Tilton clear 9-1 while competing for Rome High, breaking the school record for girls’ pole vault.

Since then she’s begun attending Georgia Pole Vault in Cartersville, an indoor facility focusing solely on pole vaulting. She met Getchell there and the two carpool to practice now.

“I think it’s definitely helped,” Tilton said. “This past month has been very helpful for me, and I’m glad to have the background that coach (Nick) Bridges has given me for the past two years.”

Bridges, Rome High’s head track coach, has been working to help bring the meet to Rome and was there watching Tilton compete Saturday. He said he is proud of her will to want to get better.

“She’s put in the work and the extra time to develop her skills. She’s dedicated to it and this is what she wants to do,” he said.

Getchell went out just before Tilton, finishing 11th after clearing 9-2 1/4. She is coming off a stellar freshman season at Model, clearing 10 feet to set a personal best and win a state championship at the Class AA finals in May.

“It was really nice having her out here,” Tilton said. “I’m really glad that she got to come here and we got to compete together.”

The regional championships conclude today with the finals of several running events and the last of the field events at Barron Stadium, as well as throwing events at the center on Riverside Parkway.