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Hamilton duo Chesnee Lawrence, Taylor Searle leading the way in Montana high school pole vault

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Posted at 3:39 PM, May 24, 2023

HAMILTON — It's rare to see a male and female athlete from the same high school be tops in the same event in Montana high school track and field, but down in Hamilton, that's exactly the case in the pole vault as Taylor Searle and Chesnee Lawrence have the best marks in the pole vault regardless of classification in the state.

And they're looking to make one more splash this weekend at the State A track and field meet.

For Lawrence, this season has seen her rapid growth in the sport continue. The senior grew up competing in gymnastics, but Lawrence picked up pole vault as a junior and placed third at state a year ago.

"Some learning curves was definitely having to put my head back when I'm upside down, because in gymnastics, you like to keep your head in," Lawrence said. "And then (the sport) coming naturally, just the whole thing basically like swinging and being upside down.

"It didn't click until the week before state last year and, I don't know, I watched a ton of videos, re-watched my videos and it just all came together."

This year, she has upped the ante even more, and she vaulted 12 feet at the Top 10 meet in Missoula — good for the best mark in the state.

"I definitely feel like I picked up right where I left off, and was able to keep working on it and just gradually get better and better," Lawrence said. "Top 10 was such a great experience. Everyone watching me and being the only one left like the whole energy was just so amazing, it was such a cool experience."

Searle, meanwhile, entered this season with high expectations.

Last year as a sophomore, Searle took home the State A pole vault title for Hamilton after vaulting 14-6, so he began his junior year with a target on his back as the top dog.

"My goals are always just heights," Searle said. "I love pole vault because it's kind of an individual sport. Don't really have to worry about anybody else, you're just beating yourself, and so I just kind of take it one height at a time and just try to get the next one."

Searle has hit the ground running as he defends his championship, and like Lawrence, he holds the best pole vaulting mark in Montana at 15-1.

Pole vaulting is also a sport where failure is inevitable the higher the athletes go, but Searle uses that as motivation.

"I am so into it, like I always want to be critiquing every little part of my form and so when I finish the day, I always am hopeful for the next meet because there's something that I think is going to be so easy to change to get the next height," Searle said. "So I just watch film and it just makes me more excited for the next opportunity."

Lawrence and Searle now have their sights set on the State A meet in Laurel this weekend, as they look to turn those state-leading marks into gold medals for the Broncs.