Terry Squibbs plunged into the billowing red folds of the pole vault mat, flat on his back and training both eyes on the trembling bar 14 and a quarter feet above him. He knew he'd nicked it, maybe by the tip of a shoelace, but maybe it wouldn't be enough to knock the bar out of its moorings.
The South Pointe-strong crowd held its breath along with father Bryan Squibbs, younger brother Brett Squibbs and one of the family's closest friends and influences, former star vaulter Mitch Greeley. They all saw the bar shake once, twice.
The third time wasn't charming. The bar bounced a little too much and fell across Terry's feet, ending his dream of escaping the USATF Region III Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships with an automatic pass to the national finals.
Squibbs will be going to Omaha, Neb., for the finals in two weeks. But it will be as part of a family to cheer on Brett, who qualified third in the pole vault in a younger age group, and friends like Charlie Snipes, who beat out Squibbs for second place.
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"It's just one of those things," Squibbs said good-naturedly. "It would have been a miracle for that thing to stay up.
"It's good I get to go and see people I know compete in Omaha, but I really thought it was going to be different this time, that I would get to go."
"I was really hoping he'd make it," said Brett, who will head to a national meet for the second straight year. "It would have been so cool to have both of us out there."
Terry just missed, failing on his third attempt at 4.25 meters (fifth place). Snipes, a close friend and former teammate before the schools realigned and Squibbs went to South Pointe while Snipes stayed at Northwestern, placed second to reigning Class AAAA state champ Trey Blanton, duplicating the results of the state meet.
Snipes, who soared over 4.55 meters but couldn't get over 4.70, qualified for nationals, and since Blanton, a star from South Aiken who is heading to Wake Forest as a decathlete, might not go to Omaha, Snipes could be the top qualifier from the state. But he was still shaking his head about how close he came to one-upping Blanton for the gold at Sunday's meet.
"I thought I had him," Snipes said. "It's cool because I still get to go, and I'm hoping maybe Terry gets to go as a fourth-place or something. But I thought I had it won."
Blanton didn't bother vaulting until the bar reached 4.55 (around 15 feet), while Snipes had cleared 4.10, 4.25 and 4.40 on his first attempts at each. The duo failed on their first attempts at 4.55, but Snipes aced his second try while Blanton hit the bar.
One more mistake and Blanton was out, giving Snipes the gold. But the future Demon Deacon made it look too easy on his final try, clearing the bar with room to spare and setting up the showdown.
Blanton skipped over 4.70 but Snipes couldn't get there. He had to be satisfied with second place and a solid effort.
"This is something I've always wanted to do," said Snipes, who plans to study at Tri-County Technical College as part of Clemson's Bridge Program next year, before hopefully transferring to Clemson as a sophomore and resuming his pole vaulting. "Right now we're all discussing how we're going to get (to Omaha)."
Vaulting took center stage at the final day of the regionals, but The Herald-area qualified two other standouts. Quanika Blackmon of Fort Mill finished third in the 1,500 with a strong finishing kick and Drew Marshall, also of Fort Mill, qualified in the 3,000.
"It's basically what I try to do," said Blackmon, who was running in the middle of the pack until the final turn. "I guess it's kind of expected of me, with my family and everything ... I don't know how to explain it."
Blackmon wasn't sure if she'll get to make the trip to Omaha but is hoping it will work out. About to enter her senior year as a Yellow Jacket, she's already looking at college scholarships as part of the family tradition.
"I haven't always been as good as it as I am now," she said. "We really want to go (to nationals), but we don't know if we're going to be able to.