Mill Valley’s Brigham won’t stop raising the bar

Lawrence — When it was over, when Mill Valley junior Emily Brigham clinched the pole vault event at the Kansas Relays on Friday, she walked away choking back tears of frustration.

She had just put on a show with a back-and-forth duel with Gardner-Edgerton’s Cassie Wait, each clearing 12-3 1/2 and each stirring “oohs” and “ahhs” from those seated before them. But she didn’t get the Kansas Relays record. And it’s not easy to please the only girl in Kansas to ever vault 13 feet these days.

“We had a great day,” her pole-vault coach, Ryan Hays, told her as she sat on the turf afterward.

But she was so close. It’d be a few minutes before she’d shake the sting.

It had come down to just her. Wait exhausted her three attempts, and Brigham had the win sealed having missed fewer overall attempts.

On her third and final try it looked right. She rose above the bar and everybody hushed. She made it over and across, but grazed the bar on her descent to send it following her to the mat. She stayed there, frozen for a few moments.

Still, she said, it was a good day. For one, after she sat through the first four legs of the event wrapped in blankets and layers for an overcast, bitter and windy first few hours, the skies cleared and the field warmed when she took the runway.

And when she won it all, Brigham stood on the champions’ podium near midfield and was recognized for her victory. This time she smiled.

Brigham, who landed her historic 13-foot jump earlier this month at Mill Valley’s home invitational, said the field she faced on Friday would likely be the closest to that of May’s state championship meet that she’ll see all season.

Though anymore it’s becoming difficult for athletes to find an opponent comparable to Brigham, who is now listed second in national track and field rankings.

Brigham and Wait will actually meet again during the Gardner Blazer Invitational at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Hays will be there, to make sure she’s not too hard on herself. Of course, her sights will continue to be firmly trained upward.

“I just want to go as high as I can,” she said.