Nealey's vault to state title no surpriseFather, coach Dale Nealey did the same 32 years prior
Belfast — Winning a state championship is a dream come true for most student-athletes, whether it is a team accomplishment or an individual one.
Like it did for many others Feb. 17 at Bates College in Lewiston, Belfast Area High School sophomore Drew Nealey's dream came true as he literally soared above the rest of the field at the state Class B indoor track championships.
Nealey brought home the state title in the pole vault as he cleared an impressive 13 feet, 6 inches. He finished two feet higher than second-place finisher Ben Ray of Greely and six inches shy of the state record, set by Scarborough's Brian Johnson in 1986.
“It was indescribable,” said Nealey of the experience. “You just kind of get a rush when it happens. I just kind of went up to dad and said: 'Dreams kind of come true.' One of the best feelings ever.”
“He's a pretty dedicated athlete,” said his father and track coach Dale Nealey. “He works really hard, so he deserves the success he's had because of his work ethic.”
Now both father and son can claim the distinction of a state pole vault title. Dale, a 1982 BAHS graduate, won the state Class B outdoor pole vault title his senior year with a vault of 12 feet.
“It's kind of neat,” said Dale. “I can understand his passion for it because I had it. I was always looking forward to doing that in practice.”
He added that his son “is a lot better athlete” than he was.
Nealey, who also won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship in the pole vault weeks prior with a jump of 13 feet, was the favorite heading into the state championships as the event's top seed.
Though Nealey made it clear no matter who is favored, nothing is a certainty when it comes to track.
“In [the] pole vault it's so easy to have a day where it's just you don't have it or you don't feel it,” Nealey said.
For example, Nealey's teammate Owen Falvey was the favorite heading into the KVAC Class B championships and no-heighted in the event, thus helping give Nealey his second conference championship of the day, this time in high jump.
“I think we went in tied,” said Nealey of Falvey. “We had both cleared six feet [at points during the season]. I think I kind of knew Owen was going to beat me because he's over practicing that every day and I'm over at the pole vault. He just has the form down, he works hard and he does a good job.”
Nealey said it felt great to win the league high jump title, but not at his teammate's expense.
When Falvey went on to win the state title for the high jump, Nealey said he was one of the first to congratulate him on the accomplishment.
“I was really happy for him,” Nealey said.
Belfast has a strong contingent of pole vaulters, as Nealey credited his father's coaching for putting together.
“He's an unbelievable pole vault coach,” Nealey said. “He knows his stuff. He's non-stop watching videos for every event and just knows track and field really well.”
Nealey said there is a “great crew” of pole vaulters at BAHS, including Emery Dinsmore, Kameron Culbertson and Curtis Warren, the latter of whom won the state Class B championship in the pole vault at last year's indoor track meet. There also are many topnotch Lion girls pole vaulters.
Nealey said he and Warren will be “battling for it” this season in the pole vault in outdoor track.
“Curtis and I are really good for each other,” Nealey said. “We put the bar up and we just keep going up and up and up. It's really helpful. And it's kind of unheard of to have two vaulters going that high in the same school.”
Nealey participates in pole vault, high jump and triple jump in indoor track, while he expands his events to include others such as the 4x400-meter relay, the 300-meter hurdles, the discus and the javelin in outdoor track.
He also is a standout football player and has excelled in other sports, such as baseball, in the past.
The sophomore said he would be interested in being a decathlete in college, which is a track-and-field athlete competing in four running, three jumping and three throwing events.
Nealey said the two more important traits for a pole vaulter are speed — the quicker the pole gets vertical, the quicker the vaulter can get into the air and over the bar — and upper-body strength.
“When I was younger I would say, 'Dad I'm going to be a pole vaulter just like you,' ” said Nealey. “And he would say, 'OK get on the pull-up bar. When you can do 10 you can start pole vaulting.'”
The 6-foot 1-inch Nealey added, “It [also] helps to be tall.”
Nealey also is projected to be the starting quarterback for the varsity football team this fall after senior Zach Collier graduates. Nealey backed up Collier this year and also was the signal-caller for the jayvee squad.
Being the starting quarterback for the Lions will be another dream come true for Nealley.
“Ever since I was a little kid I would go to the games,” he said. “I remember watching Jake Arthers and that crew and just feeling like, 'Man, I want to be just like him.'”
Dale said his son has attempted a vault of 14 feet 1 inch before and has made several legitimate attempts at breaking the state record — which he feels his son has a legitimate shot at breaking over the next two years.
“I think it's well within his reach next year," the proud father said.
Name: Drew Nealey.
Grade: Sophomore at Belfast Area High School.
Parents: Dale and Jo-Ann Nealey.
Favorite athlete: Sergey Bubka.
Favorite personal moment in sports: Winning the state Class B championship in the pole vault.
Favorite course in school: Gym.
TV show I never miss: ESPN's SportsCenter.
Favorite phone/computer app: Jellysplash.
What do you listen to on you iPod before competing: Kendrick Lamar.
Favorite movie: The Blind Side.
Food you pig out on: Pizza.
Favorite Book: “QB1” by Mike Lupica.
Hobbies: Track and football.
Vehicle you wish you were driving: A new Mustang.
Person you most want to meet (dead or alive): Sergey Bubka.
Most influential people in your life: My parents and coaches.
Future plans: To go to college and compete in track and field.
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. He has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" and iced coffee.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn and sons Beckett and Austin.
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