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State AA track and field: Billings Senior's Caden Palm ekes out pole vault title

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Posted at 9:38 PM, May 27, 2021

MISSOULA — As soon as Billings Senior’s Caden Palm cleared 14 feet, 9 inches to claim the Class AA boys pole vault championship on Thursday, he made a bee line for the Broncs' bus to grab a very important item.

“Is it alright if I wear my Hawaiian shirt,” he asked the assembled media.

It was the equivalent of a victory cigar.

“We're supposed to go to a team dinner (Friday) night and we're supposed to bring nice clothes. And when I heard this, I asked if I could wear my Hawaiian shirt and our sprints coach said no,” Palm explained. “And I'm like, 'Alright. If I win I'm wearing my Hawaiian shirt,' so here we are. I packed it and brought it all this way.”

A light moment after a tough victory.

Palm came into the State AA track and field meet with the top height in the state at 15-01. Sixteen competitors started at 12-00, but only four advanced past 14-06.

Palm, Missoula Big Sky’s Josh Smalley, Billings West’s Taven Ridley and Butte’s Brennen Blume all failed to clear 15-00, but Palm and Smalley each had the same number of attempts so they went to a jumpoff at 14-09.

Smalley missed on his first attempt, but Palm aced his first jump and claimed a walk-off state championship. The event was the kickoff to a busy weekend of track and field, with the State AA and C meets set for Friday and Saturday in Missoula.

“It makes it all worth it -- all those hours and cold days and late nights and everything worth it,” Palm said. “It was a battle for sure. To go into that jumpoff at the end, I wasn't ready for that. And it was more of an endurance battle than a battle of who got the highest jump.”

Palm is a senior and hasn’t made a college decision yet but would like to continue vaulting if possible.

“I'm going to keep vaulting during the summer,” he said. “Go to a bunch of fun meets and stuff and just try to have fun with it. Try to get the best height I can.”