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.
“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.
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!”