NORTH CANTON Matt Peare is looking to join an exclusive group.
The Hoover senior won the 2015 Division I state pole vaulting championship as a sophomore and despite coming up short in his quest to repeat last spring, he began this postseason with a chance to become one of the small number of competitors with two state titles to their credit.
The University of Kentucky recruit is eager to get back to Columbus and vie for another trip to the top of the podium and having been there before, he’s both eager and confident this time around.
“I’m really excited because I put lot of work in during the offseason and it’s definitely for nice to have experience of being down there two times and knowing what to expect,” Peare said.
Last season wasn’t what Peare wanted, but it also wasn’t the sort of disappointment that would cause any jaws to drop. Peace placed fourth in Columbus, reaching a top height of 15’8” as Federal League rival Lucas Kelley of Perry claimed the title.
Reaching the podium would count as an overwhelming success for most competitors, but for the defending state champion, it was a step below the goal.
“He definitely has edge after last year,” Hoover head coach David Neitzelt said. “I know Matt was disappointed with how things went at the state meet last year and he’s put in a ton of work to get back this year.”
Armed with that motivation, Peare has racked up win after win this season, including at the Federal League championships last week. He didn’t have to go too high - just 14’3” - to win the title, but coming out on top gave him plenty of momentum into the postseason. He added to his big day by winning the long jump with a leap of 22’6” and the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.65 seconds.
With 30 points and three individual event wins, Peare had the most productive outing of any single athlete at the meet. He scored nearly half of his team’s 77.5 points as the Vikings placed fifth at the meet.
Whether or not his senior season ends atop the podium at Jesse Owens Stadium, Peare knows that the last vault of his high school career won’t be the final time he sprints down the runway. Prior to the start of his senior season, he committed to compete for Kentucky, meaning he’ll be looking to make the same impact in the Southeastern Conference as he’s made on the Federal League the past four years.
His impact on the Hoover program has been large, according to Neitzelt.
“Matt is just an athlete. I could throw him in any event and know that I’d get great results,” Neitzelt said. “When the younger kids see that attitude, they really latch onto it.”
Being able to shift between multiple events is something not all field event specialists do. Sometimes, athletes who excel at a particular field event - especially pole vault - decide to channel all of their energy into that event and not risk injury or dilute their focus by competing in running events.
With his college choice made and his classes completed, Peare has a chance to focus more on track as the season winds down. He’s put in a heavy load of work on his approach and believes that he’s gotten better at bending his knees and getting lift off the ground, with the expectation that those tweaks will pay off in the district, regional and state meets.
As for that possibility of joining the club of two-time OHSAA state champions, Peare knows it would be the fitting cap for his high school career as he prepares to don a graduation cap.
“I’m super excited, it would be awesome,” he said. “I wanted to win last year, but it just didn’t happen.”
Fortunately, there’s one more shot at the title and Peare knows what it takes to get there.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB