Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Capital's Slater This Season's Track Star

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Capital's Slater This Season's Track Star

Article excerpt

Fans of Mountain State high school track have been fortunate of late.

There have been standout distance runners like University High's Millie Paladino, now at WVU, and Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham, now at Oklahoma. This year's star, however, isn't on the track. He's soaring above it.

His name is Tristan Slater of Capital High. If you don't know the name yet, well, you're not a track junkie.

Slater won the state pole vault competition as a freshman. And as a sophomore. And as a junior.

Was he highly recruited?

"From which country? laughed Cougars coach Willie Ruffin. "I'm serious. Canada? United States? You name it. He got offers from everywhere.

Slater decided on Tennessee and these days he's honing his craft for Southeastern Conference, national and, eventually he hopes, international competition.

On Friday he took first place in the Class AAA boys pole vault, clearing 14 feet at the 81st Gazette-Mail/Friends of Coal Relays at University of Charleston Stadium.

Now it's on to the last possible goals: winning a fourth state championship in the pole vault and, perhaps more importantly, setting the record in the upcoming state meet. Through all of Slater's accomplishments, he still hasn't surpassed the 17-foot mark in the state meet set in 1995 by Casey Freed of Parkersburg.

"That's definitely a record I'm looking forward to breaking, Slater said. "If not, though, it's just on to the next step. I try to leave it in the back of my head.

So far, it's been quite the ride for the Cougar. One he sought.

"Tristan came to me in middle school and asked to borrow some poles, Ruffin remembered. "That's very rare, but we try to take care of our kids.

"By the time I was in the eighth grade, I was at 11 feet, said Slater. "I thought, This is going well.' I told my family I wanted to be the best. My mom said, OK, we'll find you a coach.'

They found Tim Mack, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics for the United States.

"If it wasn't for him, Slater said, "I wouldn't be where I'm at. …

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