ALBANY -- Holly Ebbets has no intention of coming down any time soon.
"Next year, I'm going to break the state record,'' said Ebbets, who won the Class AAAA pole vault state title on Friday with a vault of 10 feet and 6 inches. "Definitely. I'm going to break it. Without a doubt, I'm going to break it.''
Ebbets has plenty of time. She's only a sophomore at Lee County High, and she means what she says about the state record. Her brother Caleb, who is now pole vaulting at the University of Georgia, broke the boys Class AAAA state record last year.
"She can do it,'' said Caleb, who was on hand at Hugh Mills Stadium, where they held the second day of the three day GHSA girls state track & field meet on Friday. The running finals are today.
Ebbets appeared to go higher than the 11-6 state record Friday. She won the title with a vault of 10-6 and then went well above 11 feet, but barely nipped the bar on the way down.
"You know what makes me mad?'' said Charlie Polhamus, a world champion pole vaulter who coaches Ebbets and others at his home in Fitzgerald. "It makes me mad that she was about a foot and a half above the bar.''
Ebbets was a cheerleader as an eighth-grader when her older brother started pole vaulting. She liked it so much she started training with Polhamus, making the 90-minute trip to Fitzgerald two and three times a week. She's so dedicated that after her first year of vaulting, Polhamus predicted Holly would break the state record.
She finished second in the state as a ninth-grader with a vault of 10 feet, and was determined to win the state title this year.
"I really wanted to win the title, really bad,'' she said. "I was so nervous. From the time I got up this morning I had butterflies in my stomach, and then when I got here I was really nervous and had butterflies before (the competition began). I really wanted to win, and I wanted to beat the girl who beat me last year. She's really a nice person. I just wanted to get first place.''
She did. Last year's champ, Caroline Evans from Starr's Mill, finished fourth at 9-6, and when the competition ended Ebbets was the only girl attempting to vault 11 feet.
When she cleared 10-6 to capture the title, she landed then screamed with joy, and then ran over to Polhamus, who was sitting in the first row of seats, and hugged him.
"I got off the mat and clapped my hands,'' Ebbets said. "Then I was screaming and running over and giving Charlie a hug. I was really excited. I must have looked like an idiot.''
Far from it. Ebbets is ranked in the Top 10 in her graduating class and has a 4.4 GPA.
Caleb just laughed when he was asked who the best pole vaulter in the family was. Holly said she was -- then changed her mind.
"I was happy for her,'' Caleb said. "I was real excited. She is following in big footsteps.''
Ebbets' first-place finish gave Lee County its only 10 points of the meet. Bainbridge, the only other area Class AAAA school in the meet, finished the day with one point as Diamond Bouie finished eighth in the high jump.
While Ebbets was writing her story in the pole vault, Westover's Ericka Taylor was putting on a show of courage and heart in the Class AAA meet, where she ran in the 1,600 meter finals.
Taylor has been battling a knee injury all spring, and was limping on her bad leg on Tuesday. Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun met with her Wednesday and they decided to skip the 3,200 meter run Thursday and just compete in the 1,600 on Friday.
Taylor, who won the Class AAA cross-country title in the fall, ran a magnificent race and led until the final lap when Columbus' Kristina Delpesche overtook her and went on to win. Taylor was second.
"She ran her race exactly like planned,'' Calhoun said. "But that last 400 was just a result of a lack of conditioning. She hasn't been able to work the last month like she usually does because of her knee, and that lack of conditioning was the difference in that final 400.
"She is such an amazing person to go what she has gone through and still run in this race. She ran a great race. She ran a personal best of 5:18. She just didn't have enough left to hold on, but only one girl could catch her. She's an amazing person.''
It would have been easy for Taylor to have just shut down her running this spring, but she worked out and tried to compete, skipping some meets to try to recover from a nagging knee problem that's a result of one of her legs being longer than the other.
"I wanted to run,'' she said. "There were times when I was in pain (this spring) and I didn't tell my coach. I just wanted to run and do my best. I just always want to do my best.''
That was the idea Friday.
"I thought I was going to win,'' she said. "But she caught me in the last lap, and I just didn't have anything left at the end.''
If Taylor was at full strength she would have had a chance to win both the 3,200 and the 1,600. She was sixth in the 3,200 last year, and had plans on winning it until her knee injury kept her out of the race.
She left the track with few regrets, however, on Friday.
"I never use my (knee injury) as an excuse,'' she said. "I wanted to win and would never use it as an excuse.
"I was 14th in the (1,600) last year, so finishing second is going to be good enough for this year,'' said Taylor, who is only a sophomore. "I can come back next year and win it.''
Westover's Alysia Potts, a junior, finished third in the pole vault. She was fourth last year when she set a school record at 9 feet, 6 inches.
She broke her own school record Friday, vaulting 10 feet. Elise Moffatt of Allatoona won the title with a vault of 10-6.
"I have one more year,'' Potts said. "I'm winning the state title next year. I'm claiming it. I'm winning it. I'm going to be the state champ.''
Kayla Kirkland finished eighth in the pole vault for Westover, which scored 15 points on Friday. Dougherty's Shontisnia Eady finished seventh in the shot put.
Albany High's Samaria Roberson finished third in the shot put, and Early County's Angie Kinjerski finished eighth in the pole vault.
Pelham's Ussula Aviles finished sixth in the 1,600 meter run and Pelham's Hannah White finished seventh in the pole vault.