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Starkville's Henderson out to reach new heights at North State meet


Scott Walters



STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School senior Charlie Henderson proudly labels himself "an adrenaline junkie." 


Henderson spent his grade school years in Colorado, where he enjoyed skiing and rock climbing. In 2006, he and his family moved to Starkville during his sixth-grade year. 


"When I moved to Mississippi, I had to find an outlet to get some thrills," Henderson said. "Pole vaulting was the most exciting thing I could find to do here in Mississippi." 


Henderson joined the Starkville High track team as a sophomore. He quickly found pole vaulting to be his niche. Last month at the region meet, Henderson set a new personal best with a vault of 13 feet, 6 inches to win the event. On Saturday, he will look to do even better in the Mississippi High School Activities Association North State Class 6A meet at Madison Central High School. 


"There is lot of anticipation for this meet because I have a lot of momentum," Henderson said. "I am getting in the swing of what I am supposed to do to be the best in Class 6A." 


While the Yellow Jackets won't have their usual number of participants in the North State meet, the talent level still will be as high. For most at this time of the season, the emphasis shifts to individual state championships. 


"I am anxious to perform Saturday," Starkville High sophomore Ralesheia Gee said. "I am not that nervous because of last year (advancement to the state finals). I made some improvement at the region meet, so that excited me. There were some things I had been working on in practice, so it was good to see that extra work pay off." 


Gee advanced to North State by recording a mark of 17-1 in the long jump. The jump helped her finish third. Earlier this season, she matched her personal best with a 17-7. It was the second time she reached that distance. She said her ability to focus has helped her become more consistent. 


"What I learned last year is to always expect competition," Gee said. "You will always be matched up with some great athletes, and you can't be intimidated by that. You have to work on your game and do what is best to make you a better competitor." 


Other Starkville High participants Saturday will be: Alex Ross (1,600 and 3200 meters) and Christian Kingery (400) on the boys side. Ross won the 1,600 (4:44.92) and the 3,200 (10:20.40) at the region meet, while Kingery was fourth in the 400 (51.70). Kate Mattox (1,600, 3,200), Walker Mattox (1,600, 3,200M), Emily Woomer, and the 4x400 relay team on the girls side. The relay team includes Woomer, Taylor Rogers, Shanika Musser, Kate Mattox, and alternates Catherine Buffington and Kennis Kingery. 


Kate Mattox won the 1,600 (5 minutes, 14.43 seconds) and the 3,200 (11:04.70), while Walker finished third in both events (5:34.23, 11:52.37) at the Region 2 meet at Clinton High. Woomer was second in the 400 (58.33), while the 4x400 relay team was second (4:12.05). 


The Columbus High girls 4x100 team finished fourth (51.56) at the region meet and also will compete Saturday. Alex Lipscomb, who won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the region meet, will lead the Columbus High boys. Dosha Walker took third in the 100 (11.24) and will be joined by Devarsionta Williams (fourth in the long jump, 20-4 1/2) also will represent the Columbus High boys. The Falcons' 4x100 (third at region meet, 42.66), 4x200 (second, 1:30.51), and 4x400 (seconds, 3:33.72) also will compete. 


For Henderson, the chance to compete at North State is another opportunity to add to his accomplishments with graduation on the horizon. 


"Before I go to meet, I have been trying real hard to pump myself up this year," Henderson said. "I know this will be one of my last chances to compete. Vaulting is all about energy. It is about attacking it and destroying it." 


Due to the demands on the body, Henderson spends one day a week doing the actual vault. The rest of the week is spent running and conditioning. 


"Running is a bigger part than most people think. That is how you bend the pole. You have to have real quick, explosive runs. I practice running and doing the movements because you can't do the actual vaulting itself all the time." 


Henderson also has enjoyed his track teammates and feels the togetherness of the team has allowed the program to achieve great success. 


"We don't have as many going to North State as we would have liked," Henderson said, "so we are not counting on a lot of points as a team, but I really do enjoy the team companionship. I have made so many friends from the other sports and other teams, too. We cheer each other on and we push each other to the limit. That is what competition is all about." 


Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.


Scott is sports copy editor and reporter


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