JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A state final four berth in basketball and a state championship in track --not a bad way to end a year.
It's a long way from where Notre Dame senior Bryce Willen was in early November, when he severely injured his knee during the boys soccer district championship game.
Following knee sugery, Willen has shown his mettle, leading the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish in the Class 4 state basketball tournament, only to top himself with a state championship in the pole vault Saturday at the Class 3 state track championships at Dwight T. Reed Stadium.
"I never really wanted to get hurt, but now that it's turned out like this, I'm not complaining any more," Willen said.
Willen brought home the area's only state title of the two-day championships for classes 3 and 4 in what turned out to be the final event of the day. Once the bar reached 14 feet, the field was trimmed to three -- Willen, Kirksville's Kyle Shelton and McDonald County's Ethan Hobbs.
All three cleared 14-0 with relative ease, with only Hobbs scratching once. At 14-3, Willen and Hobbs cleared the height on their second tries. Shelton, who came in with the top sectional vault of 14-3, needed all three of his tries to clear the height.
The bar then moved to 14-6 -- a height Willen had never cleared before -- where all three missed the first two times around. Willen's second attempt just missed, as the bar rattled, steadied, then fell.
The third time was the charm for Willen, though, as the bar moved slightly but stayed up for the winning vault. Shelton had one last shot but failed to clear the height.
"I tell myself, "I can clear this, I can clear this,'" Willen said of his approach. "If I miss it and I have a good jump, I say I only have to do this to clear it. I always try to stay positive.
"The bar just kind of rolled off [on the second one]. I've got to make that now. I came close, and that would be a shame not to clear it."
This was the third all-state pole vault medal for Willen, who qualified all four years in the event.
"I can't end my high school career any better than with a state championship," Willen said.
Willen completes his career with two state titles, having been a member of Notre Dame's Class 2 boys soccer championship in 2002.
In other boys action Saturday, Jackson senior Andy Glass converted his first trip to the state track meet into an all-state performance. It also has been one heck of a senior year for Glass.
Glass, a three-sport athlete in football, wrestling and track, added to his honors Saturday with a fourth-place throw of 53-10 1/4 in the shot put.
Glass was an all-conference and an all-district selection in football, and he finished all-state in wrestling with a sixth-place finish at 215 pounds. For his work in all three sports, Glass was named Jackson's male athlete of the year recently at Jackson's annual sports banquet.
"I accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to," Glass said. "I set my goals high and accomplished most of them."
Central's all-sophomore 400 relay team finished its season with a fifth-place finish in Class 4 in 43.17 seconds. Relay members included Allen Walker, Anwar Glenn, Tyler Terry and Hykeem Hammonds.
"Next year, we're going to be a lot better than we were this year," Walker said. "And senior year, we're going to take it over."
Perryville's 3,200-meter relay team put together its best performance of the year, finishing fourth in Class 3 with a time of 8:07.93. That time was more than 5 seconds faster than the squad's sectional qualifying time. Relay members were Terry Wood, Jesse Kueker, Ryan Regelsperger and William Benline.
Also for the Pirates, Matt Unterreiner finished sixth in the 110 hurdles in 15.11. Unterreiner shaved over four-tenths of a second off his preliminary time from Friday.
"I ran a little better time today," Unterreiner said. "I felt a little better, a little looser. I just ran a better race."
Perryville's 400 relay team finished in seventh place in a time of 44.11. Relay members for the 400 relay included Unterreiner, Zach Hanquist, Kyle Lorenz and Adam Westmoreland. Perryville also placed seventh in the 1,600 relay in 3:29.01. Relay members were Kueker, Wood, Lorenz and Kyle Cottner.
Perryville's other individual finals entry on Saturday, Wood in the 400, took eighth to earn all-state honors with a time of 51.32. Cottner finished 11th in the triple jump and Ben Rhyne was 14th in the discus.
Notre Dame also brought home another all-state performance from its 3,200 relay team. The Bulldogs finished seventh in Class 3 in 8:08.75. Relay members included Austin Critchlow, Matt Pfau, Mark Zimmer and Jason Delgado.
As a team the Bulldogs place 15th with 14 points and Perryville finished with 13 points.