Her boyfriend, Jordan Ellison, is the defending Class AA pole vault state champion and set a personal best by clearing 13 feet Saturday. But Casey County freshman Shelby Stringer was so happy just to be competing in the Class AA, Region 5 meet that nothing added any extra pressure.
“I’ve been out with injuries the last two weeks. This is my first meet back, so winning was totally unexpected,” said Stringer after she cleared 8 feet to win the pole vault and earn a berth in Thursday’s state meet along with Ellison.
Stringer cleared the same height earlier this season, but thought by mid-May she would be going higher.
Then she was sidelined and didn’t know if she would even be competing in the region.
“I had a cyst on my ovary burst,” she said after her win at Boyle County on a warm, sunny day. “That’s why I didn’t do my other events today. It was so hard both physically and emotionally the last two weeks. It took a lot out of me.
“I was not expecting this at all. Really, I¿thought I would be out after my first couple of jumps. After my first jump, though, I thought,’Wow. I can still do this.’ After that, it felt great. I’ve done 8 feet before, but to do it again in my first meet back is very good for me.”
She wasn’t bashful about admitting she “cried a lot” the last two weeks about her dilemma.
“Fortunately, I¿was just on medication and I hope they will not have to do any surgery,” she said. “The thought of surgery scared me to death, but hopefully I¿will be fully healed soon. I was so afraid at first. Jordan, my coach and my parents all pushed me to get back out there.”
No one had to push her that hard to try pole vaulting, an event most track and field athletes avoid.
“I am so used to being thrown around from being a cheerleader that it doesn’t bother me. It’s right up my alley because I like dangerous things,” she said.
Stringer says Ellison’s success motivates her and there is no jealousy or competition between the two at the track.
“He really pushes me to be my best more than anything,” she said. “He works a lot with me and I could not ask for a better coach. I¿am lucky to have him as a boyfriend and coach. He will just pick at me at times, but I¿take it. He is state champion and I’m not, so there is not much I¿can say.”
While Ellison will be trying to become the first Casey boy to win back-to-back state titles, Stringer has no illusions of grandeur about her state fate.
“I have always dreamed of going to state and I did think I would be going 8-6 or 9 feet by now,” she said. “But I have three more years to compete. This is more like a preview for me to see what the state meet is all about. I would like to win, but if only one of us can win I hope it is him because this is his last year.”
Stringer is big on that type of school spirit any way. She couldn’t wear her blue and red bow in her blonde hair while competing, but as soon as she won her event it was put in place.
“That’s my cheerleading bow. I wear it most meets, but today I wasn’t allowed,” she said. “But if I¿am wearing Casey County colors, I¿just like to have that hair bow on.”