Confidence, perseverance earn Pehler second-straight state title in pole vault

            Arcadia High School’s Casidi Pehler roared in celebration after clinching her second consecutive WIAA Division Two state championship and clearing the 12-foot mark in pole vault at last Saturday’s track and field championships at UW-La Crosse.     (Times photograph by Benjamin Pierce)



Casidi Pehler’s coaches at Arcadia High School have talked often about the multi-sport athlete’s strength, speed and technique that separate her as a top athlete in the Coulee Region.

And while those abilities played a part on Saturday, it was more of the senior pole vaulter’s mental toughness that helped her end a decorated high school career with a second consecutive WIAA Division Two state championship.

Pehler was the only vaulter to clear the bar at the 12-foot mark at Saturday’s state meet at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, one year after winning the same event at 11 feet, 6 inches.

“It feels great. I got it last year and I knew it was going to be tougher this year,” Pehler said. “There are great vaulters in all divisions, but I knew D2 again was going to be tough. So getting that 12 (foot) height was huge for me. Six inches higher than I was last year, and I’m just very happy with how I performed.”

Timing on Saturday caused some stress for Pehler, who was also competing as the top-seeded athlete in girls discus. She qualified with a school record 133 foot, 11 inch throw at the sectional meet on May 23.

Warmups and qualification rounds in the girls discus and pole vault competitions on Saturday lined up to be nearly simultaneous. Pehler hurried back and forth between discus and pole vault locations twice for check-ins.

She had to throw all three of her discus attempts consecutively at the end of the preliminary round instead of the typical alternating state format. Her furthest throw of 109-11 was not enough to qualify for finals.

Pehler had little time to fret about her discus performance. She embraced her discus coach after her final throw and began the trek back to the pole vault area, which was indoors on Saturday due to rain.

“It definitely sucked,” Pehler said. “That was my last time throwing disc in high school. … I was a little worked up, but I just kind of had to reset. I took a second to myself and then reset in pole vault mode because I might not have done the best, but I wasn’t going to let that affect (me) in my next event.”

No such effect was visible in the recent Arcadia graduate, who earned a scholarship to continue her track career at Division I North Dakota State University next year.

Pehler sailed through her first vault at 10-6 and opted to skip the jump at 11 feet. She flew over the bar in her first attempt at 11-3 before joining Amery junior Kelly Fern and McFarland junior Julia Ackley in a competition at 11-9.

Fern, who took third in 2023, advanced with Pehler for the final jumps at 12 feet. Fern and Pehler have grown to become friends, which the latter said took some pressure off on Saturday.

“We’ve vaulted together so much that we’ve definitely built a relationship and we’re both very happy for each other and how we’ve done,” Pehler said. “We have that competition while still having that friendship so I feel like that honestly helped us both to relax and compete to the best we can.”

Both Fern and Pehler scratched their first two attempts at 12 feet. When Fern narrowly missed clearing the bar in her final jump, Arcadia pole vault coach Taryn McKeeth said she was confident Pehler was going to make it.

McKeeth stood to the side of the pole vault mat, where she told Pehler to stay in the moment and believe in herself. McKeeth said Pehler’s confidence has grown drastically from when she first tried pole vault early in her high school career.

“I said, ‘Either way you’ve won it. I know you can get this and you know you can get this and honestly, I haven’t seen you run this fast in so long. She said she was tired, and I said, ‘You’re not tired though. I’ve watched you run so fast right now. You’re not tired at all, so go take it.’”

“And then she did.”

Pehler’s final vault of the day stood as the winner. She gave credit to her support system of coaches, teammates, family and friends before also thanking God.

After a long day of nerves, perseverance and a state-title-winning career finale, Pehler gave herself some props, too.

“We had three girls make 11-6, which is what I won with last year, but to come back I put a lot of time in,” Pehler said. “I wanted to be a two-time champion, and I did that today and I am very proud of myself.”

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