HIBBING — When the high school track season ended on June 19, Hibbing High School junior Julia Gherardi took home the top prize in the pole vault, clearing a height of 12-feet-6-inches.
Most athletes would take a break after that, but not Gherardi.
She went right back to pole vaulting.
Gherardi is intent on breaking 13-feet next year, and she’s not holding anything back.
For that kind of desire and for the fact that she was a 2021 state champion in the pole vault, Gherardi has been named the Mesabi Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald Review Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
Gherardi wasn’t pleased with her performance at the state meet, so she has her sights set on a second title next year.
“I’m still thinking about it, for sure,” Gherardi said. “I wish I would have made it (13-feet) at state. Now, it’s motivation toward it, something to work on this summer. It was an easy decision to make because I did it last summer and the summer before that, too.
“Pole vaulting is something I want to do in college. The more practice I do, the better I’ll get in the future.”
There were some extenuating circumstances that may have resulted in Gherardi’s performance.
No. 1, it was hot. No. 2, the event started one-hour late because of a traffic accident on I-94 just outside St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Some teams were still in the process of getting to the track, and that delayed the start of the meet.
Even so, Gherardi handled the situation just fine. She went through her cues and won going away.
“For her, it has become like riding a bike,” Hibbing coach Serena Sullivan said. “You have to go through those eight phases of the event. It’s a thoughtless process. There’s so many different steps to go through.
“You can overthink it and at other times, you’re not thinking enough. It’s where those standards should be with how you’re feeling on that day.”
Sullivan isn’t surprised by all of the hard work Gherardi has put into her event. Being a runner, she knows about the ups-and-downs of track athletes.
“She takes no shortcuts,” Sullivan said. “In this sport, there are no shortcuts. If there were shortcuts, I would have found them by now.”
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Gherardi can be found at the track working on her craft with Coach Doug Moberg.
The biggest adjustment Gherardi has to make now is using a longer vaulting pole.
She used a pole that is 13-6 to win state. If she wants to clear 13-feet, the length of that vaulting pole will increase to 14-feet.
There is an adjustment period when a vaulter has to switch poles.
“Going to that bigger pole has been tough for me,” Gherardi said. “It’s all about the form and stuff. I have to hold it higher, so I just have to get used to the feel of the pole. I’ve only been working on it for a little less than a month.
“I got the pole before state, but I didn’t practice with it a lot. Now, I’m using it more. I love working on that, but it is tough.”
When she’s not vaulting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Gherardi is working out.
“That’s basically what I do all day,” Gherardi said. “I do stuff in the weight room, and sometimes, I go to the track and do sprinting workouts. Being a pole vaulter, you have to be fast.
“That helps me a lot when I’m working on my speed.
Gherardi will be thinking about 13-feet a lot this summer, fall and winter. She will compete in Junior Olympic events in Minnesota, plus, she plans on attending a regional meet in Omaha, Neb.
That’s where she’ll try to clear that 13-foot mark.
“When she goes to bigger competitions and performs well, that’s where she will see the bigger picture,” Sullivan said. “There were multiple reasons she didn’t vault to her capabilities.
“She’s a great all-around competitor.”
Sullivan believes Gherardi will clear that mark next season.
“I think it’s a good thing that she has another goal to shoot for,” Sullivan said. “She’s so competitive and determined to come back and hit the state record. She wants to learn how to be better. She’s willing to listen.
“She’s willing to put herself out there. That’s a great thing to have as an athlete. That’s a great determination for her. She’ll surpass that.”
Joining Gherardi on the all-area team are Merica Beighley, Grand Rapids; Elli Theel, Hannah Hannuksula, Kora Forsline, Kailey Fossell, Kiarra Moehlenbrock, Lindsey Baribeau, Aaliyah Sahr, Olivia Forsline, Lydia Skelton and Aubree Skelton of Mesabi East; Liz Nelson and Kate Nelson of Mountain Iron-Buhl; Kenna Ridge, Jaden Ellefson, Jillian Sajdak and Ana Ridge of South Ridge/Cherry/North Woods; Elli Jankila and Ava Fink of Rock Ridge; and Emmalee Oviatt of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin.