When it comes to the art of pole vaulting, there must be something in the water on Statts Mills Road near Ripley.
Consider the fact that the two record holders in the pole vault at Ripley High School both grew up on Statts Mills Road. Justin Southall owns the boys’ record in the event while Savana Whiting left last spring as the school’s all-time best female pole vaulter.
Southall, a graduate in the Ripley High Class of 2000, was a two-time Class AAA state pole vault champion before going on to enjoy a solid career in track and field at the University of Akron. Whiting, who scored in the event at the State Meet during her high school career, just completed year one as a pole vaulter at the NCAA Division I level for the University of Charlotte.
Don’t look now, but another Statts Mills Road resident is making a name for himself in pole vaulting. Zane Griffith set the Ripley Middle School record this past season by clearing 10 feet, seven inches. The old mark of 10-feet, one inch was established back in 2001 by Paul Kronk. Griffith cleared his personal best at a meet this past spring in Point Pleasant.
His all-time best vault not only broke the school record, but also ranked him 17th nationally among middle school competitors. He was also tied with a middle school performer from Ritchie County for having the top height in West Virginia this past season.
Griffith just wrapped up his eighth grade year at RMS. He started pole vaulting when he was a sixth grader.
“I had taken gymnastics when I was young,” said the 14-year-old, who stands 5-9 and weighs 140. “I figured it (the pole vault) would be a good fit.”
This past season, Griffith won the pole vault in every meet but one (in which he was second). Besides the pole vault, he also competed on the school’s 4x100 and 4x200 meter relay teams. “He’s a real hard worker,” said RMS head boys’ track and field coach Jon Melhorn. “He goes up to WVU a lot and practices up there. He’s always trying (to top his best vault).”
Griffith’s father, Dave, was a running back for the Ripley football teams of 1978-80. His mother, the former Annette Johnson, was a Viking cheerleader throughout her days at Ripley High. The soon-to-be Ripley High freshman credits Whiting for providing a lot of assistance the past few years in helping him achieve success in the pole vault. His mother and Whiting’s mother, the former Patona Jones, have been close friends since their time as cheerleaders for Ripley High. This summer Griffith plans to compete in several AAU andUSA Track & Field meets. He’s looking forward to moving on to Ripley High and competing as a Viking.
He’s not shy about one day possibly topping Southall’s school-best vault of 14 feet. “That’s my goal by the end of high school,” he said.
Considering where he lives, there’s a very good chance that it will happen.