Heritage's Tabb attempts to match father's state title

CONYERS - They have backpacked 81 miles together in New Mexico and canoed the rivers of Canada. But in the next couple of weeks, Heritage senior Morgan Tabb will try to share something very unique with his father, Tom Tabb, a Conyers insurance agent. He will attempt to win a state title in the pole vault.

It won't be easy, and the younger Tabb said his goal is to place in the top four at state so he will earn points toward the Patriots' team effort for a championship. And getting to the state meet involves the most pressure as only two vaulters will advance through the Region 8AAAA competition Wednesday in Monroe.

"Winning state is more of a dream than a goal," Morgan said. "My goal is to place in the top four, and I have to finish first or second in our region to do that."

It's not unusual for a boy to follow in his dad's footsteps when it comes to sports. But usually that involves something like golf or even football or basketball. To follow after your dad in a thrill-seeking event like the pole vault is another matter.

The elder Tabb, who now helps out with the Heritage boosters club for track, once ran down the cinder runway and hurled his body over a bar resting north of 13 feet. The year was 1978 when Tom Tabb won the state AAA competition while competing for Lakeside High School of Atlanta. Then, as now, the state meet was held in the North Georgia hamlet of Jefferson, and Tabb achieved his personal best that day at 13 feet, 6 inches.

The younger Tabb is off to a good start in his final season at Heritage and recently won the Rockdale-Newton Challenge meet by clearing 12 feet, 7 inches at the competition held at Alcovy High School in Covington. Morgan's personal best came just prior to the local meet when he cleared 13 feet, 7 inches at the Loganville Invitational. That's right, one inch higher that his dad's personal best.

"I am very pleased with how the year has gone so far because I have already accomplished some goals I set for myself," Morgan said. "I'm definitely stronger and better this year. The key I think is to peak at the right time and that's what I am trying to do."

The pressure-packed regional meet essentially pits Tabb against two other comparable vaulters from Cedar Shoals and Winder. So there will have to be one man out as far as the state meet goes.

"Pole vaulting is such a mental event," Morgan's father said. "I keep reminding Morgan that you can sometimes win an event even when you don't jump your very best. It was my experience way back when, and Morgan's now, that each day you feel a little different and have to adjust to what feels right that day."

Having a father who understands the nuances of pole vaulting is something Morgan appreciates.

"It's been great to share this with Dad," the athletic senior said. "At first he was my coach, but in the past few years he has been my encourager and understands the ups and downs of the event. I am so pleased because as a freshman, I never thought I would be at this level, and he has been a big part of that."

The older Tabb smiled and added, "Morgan has overcome a lot of adversity the last four years with a different coach each year, and having to go to another school to practice. He was injured his freshman year and overcame that. So naturally, I am very proud."

So, what's it like to zoom over the bar at 12 or 13 feet? After all, isn't that experience what is unique about this event?

The younger Tabb jumped in with, "It's definitely a rush as soon as you clear the bar and can enjoy that 13-foot fall onto the soft mattress."

Tom also gave his view. "You don't even think about anything except planting that pole, making the perfect plant, kind of like hitting a four-iron real solid in golf," he said.

Both agree that technique is the key to success because Morgan will not get any stronger or faster before his important meets. So the planting of the pole, the zooming skyward and that exhilarating landing are on the agenda for the next two weeks.