Photo credit/Sarah Harris DHI Media Claire Schweller, Paulding High School junior, earns a spot at state competition for the pole vaulting title.

PIQUA - Claire Schweller is headed to state again.

The Paulding junior finished third in the pole vault at the Division II regionals at Piqua on Saturday to earn her ticket to the state meet which will be held this coming Friday and Saturday at Pickerington North High School.

“It’s very exciting to make it to state again after making it my freshman year,” related Schweller. “I felt so much pressure this year and had to live up to the expectations. It’s amazing to be going a second time.”

Schweller cleared the bar on her second attempt at 11-0 on Saturday and that was enough to place in the top four and with it a state trip.

“Claire has really been a joy to watch pole vault all year,” noted Paulding head coach Kim Bickford. “Up until the regional meet, she had never been beaten. It was really cool to see her keep her composure and know which pole to use and when to switch. Just seeing how far she’s come from the beginning of the year is amazing.

“It’s awesome to have her going to state and I think it will not only inspire the other kids for next year to push themselves, but it can also get some more kids out on the team for these next few years. I know she’s put in a lot of work and to see things coming together for her is really awesome.”

As a freshman, Schweller was also third at regionals with a height of 9-8, a PR at the time. At state, she cleared 9-6, competing right after running in a relay.

After no season a year ago, Schweller has been motivated to make it back to state.

“Throughout this year my dad kept me updated on my ranking in the state,” Schweller said. “My goal at the end of the year is 12 and I’m close to that.”

Improvement has taken place to get to this point.

“I’m running faster down the runway which helps me get bigger poles,” explained Schweller. “I used a different pole at district and used two different poles at regionals. It’s what is most comfortable with the wind and the weather. It was cold, so I had to use a softer pole.”

Tru Buddenberg, a sophomore from Greenon, was first at 11-4 with Schweller tying for the second best height only to finish third with one more miss.

While making the trip to Pickerington North in the pole vault, Schweller just missed out on qualifying in a second event. The Paulding standout placed seventh in the 300 hurdles with a time of 49.902. A clocking of 48.5 was needed to finish in the top four and with it a state berth.

“I felt I ran the race I normally run,” Schweller said. “It was windy out and I was close to my PR. I definitely got better at the end of the year.”

The only other Paulding regional qualifier, Maggie Manz, saw her season and high school career come to a close with a 15th-place finish during qualifying in the 200 meters. The senior had a time of 28.02, with a clocking of 26.90 needed to qualify with a top-eight time.

“Only being Maggie’s coach for one year has been fun,” Bickford said. “She was a competitive runner and we were really hoping she could get further to finish out her career. She was a part of the 4x400 team that went to state a couple years ago so I knew coming in that she was going to be pushing for that again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the results we wanted but she never let up and pushed herself to regionals in the 200. It was a pleasure to coach her this year.”

The D-II pole vault will take place on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. Schweller enters state-meet competition with the fifth best qualifying height at regionals, the top being 12-0 by Alexis Rickenbacher of Liberty-Benton. The Paulding junior has a season-best vault of 11-6.

“The biggest reason I was nervous my freshman year is all the girls in the pole vault were warming up while I was running the 4x4,” Schweller said about making a return trip to state. “This year I’m confident, but there’s more pressure with a chance to go on the podium. I just want to exceed my expectations.”

Bickford understands what Schweller must deal with at state

“There is going to be some pretty stiff competition so she is definitely going to have to be at her best to pull it out,” Bickford noted. “But I have no doubt that if she puts her mind to it, she can come away with the victory. For this meet, if she can come down the runway like she did this past meet, and if she can get more vertical, then it should be a pretty good showing.”