Belmont High’s Sarah Firth Takes Consecutive All-State Pole Vault Titles [VIDEO]

Photo: Belmont High’s Sarah Firth (third from left) and the other medalists at the 2021 MIAA All-State Track and Field meet (courtesy photo)

Despite a pandemic and a more than a two-year wait, Belmont High Senior Sarah Firth vaulted to consecutive MIAA All-State pole vault titles clearing 11-feet, 6-inches at the event held in Westborough on Wednesday, June 23. Firth’s victory came 747 days after she won her first state title jumping 11′ 9″ in June 2019. The 2020 outdoor track season was cancelled.

“I think having to wait so long to compete again made this victory extra sweet,” Firth told the Belmontonian.

Firth beat out Westborough High sophomore Melinda Haagensen who equaled the 11′ 6″ mark but Firth made the height on her first attempt. In fact, she cleared all her vaults on the first try.

Belmont High School’s Sarah Firth’s winning vault (11′ 6″) at the 2021 MIAA All-State Meet. (Courtesy video)

“The competition was the cleanest I’ve ever had. Even though I didn’t make a personal best at 12 feet like I wanted to, I didn’t miss any jumps the entire meet,” said Firth. “Overall, I felt the best I’ve felt all season. At the North Division 1 meet last week [she retained her 2019 sectional title with an 11 foot vault] I hadn’t jumped my best due to the heat and humidity. However, at All-States, every jump felt really light and springy, and I felt ready to go,” she said.

“There were a lot of people there, so I was also feeding off the crowd. The next two competitors, Haagensen and Megan Frazee [third place from Westford Academy], both had excellent days as well. It’s more fun to win when there are great competitors spurring you on,” she said.

“Although the second state meet was definitely a lot more stressful than the first because I had higher expectations for myself going in, it was still a great way to end the season. I’m glad I was able to finish my high school career on a high,” said Firth.

Unlike many high school athletes affected by COVID-19, Firth not only couldn’t compete, she lost a year of high-level training.

“The missed year definitely impacted me because I had to work to get back to where I had been sophomore year, instead of pushing forwards. I had qualified for the High School Indoor Nationals in 2020, but the meet was cancelled the night before due to COVID-19, and I wasn’t able to train regularly until about March of this year,” she said.

Belmont High School’s Sarah Firth at the Middlesex League Championships in 2021. (Courtesy photo)

Notwithstanding all the hurdles that stood before her, Firth said the past two years taught her that “hard work combined with passion can help you reach new heights, both literally and figuratively.”

Firth’s athletic career will continue in the coming academic year as she’ll take her skills on the runway and in the classroom four-and-a-half miles up the road to Tufts University where she’ll add running the 100-meter hurdles to her track resume.

“It was difficult to decide where to go school, especially since I wasn’t able to go on any visits to meet the teams and coaches or check out the facilities in person until after I had to commit. I also struggled for a long time to make the decision whether to do Division 1 or Division 3 sports, because all of the other schools looking at me were D1. Ultimately, however, I just felt most at home at Tufts, and I knew it was the right decision after I committed,” she said.

“I’m really excited to become a Jumbo next year, and to hopefully compete at NCAA Nationals!”


Belmont High’s Firth Wins NE Pole Vault Championship With PR Effort [Video]

Photo: Belmont sophomore and New England Champion Sarah Firth.

This year, Sarah Firth has been seeking new heights to climb … and to fall from as the Belmont High student has been turning heads as the one-time pole vaulting neophyte added not just inches to her best mark but by feet.

And at the biggest meet of the year, the sophomore defeated a slew of the region’s best pole vaulters to win the crown at the New England High School Track and Field Championship Meet in Saco, Maine, on Saturday, June 8.

Firth’s winning vault, 11 feet, 9 inches, was a 3-inch personal best from her 11’6″ effort that captured the MIAA All-State meet held a week earlier where she defeated 2017 All-State champion senior Haley Lightbody of Reading.

“This is the first time I have won either All-States or New Englands,” said Firth. “The help of all my coaches is really what made my win possible. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to relax and just go for it.”

A former gymnast who credits her bar training with giving her a familiarity with the turning and flipping nature of pole vaulting, it was Firth’s mother who suggested taking up the sport as a ninth grader.

Training at Harvard and at a club in Westborough, it took Firth time to master the skill of sprinting as fast as you can down a 30-meter runway, sticking a long, heavy fiberglass pole in a metal box which launches you high in the air as you attempt to twist and turn your body while upside down over a bar and then fall backwards from the height of a second-story window. At the end of her freshman year, Firth had vaulted a modest 8 feet.

It was during the indoor season this year that Firth said she finally began to understand the technique required to allow the pole to do the work and her improvement was eye-opening. She finished second with a 10’6″ in the MIAA State Division 2 championships, trailing only Lightbody. At All States, Firth improved her vault by a foot to defeat Lightbody by 6 inches.

At Saco, Firth, ranked the number 1 seed (her 11’6″ was the best of all the state championship marks from the week before), faced several champions and outstanding vaulters with higher personal bests; Austin Prep junior Emily Hickey (11’7”), Lightbody (11’6”), and Connecticut juniors Paige Martin (12’0”) and Elise Russell (11’6”).

Since a pole vault meet can take hours to complete, Firth was out on the track early Saturday along with 34 competitors. “My first few [practice] jumps were not like the greatest, but it was OK,” said Firth. But once she made her first vault at 9’9″, “everything felt right.”

The meet came down to Firth, Hickey and Martin each making 11’3″. But since Firth had attempted more jumps to clear the height, she would finish third if everyone missed their final vaults.

Austin Prep junior Emily Hickey (left) and Belmont’s Sarah Firth.

“[Third place] would still be good but my goal was to jump a personal best,” said Firth, who stayed relax between jumps talking to the other athletes “because we all know each other.”

“I knew that I could [make 11’9″] if everything fell into place, if I could get my run right and do it like I had in practice,” said Firth.

Despite feeling a little fatigued jumping in sunny warm weather, everything fell in place with Firth clearing the bar and came down a champion.

The one disappointment was Firth missed an invitation to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals by a mere three inches.

“Hopefully next year I can qualify for both Indoor and Outdoor Nationals,” she said.