Sanford, Fox set to rekindle rivalry in NYC

No matter the sport, individual rivalries are a vital part of the action.

Brady and Manning, Bird and Magic, and Arnie and Jack are some memorable dueling duos in history.

Add Sanford and Fox to the list as McDowell's Caleb and Hempfield Area's Hayden used a series of head-to-head meetings to push the pole vault and themselves forward in 2016. The pair will lead a Keystone state contingent of four in today's championship pole vault at the New Balance Nationals Indoor.

"I always try to jump my best no matter who I am competing against, but I definitely feel that having Hayden to challenge me really helps, and I believe that the opposite is true also," Sanford declared.

A senior and Duke signee, Sanford had the most consistent indoor campaign of any Pennsylvania vaulter and is looking forward to upping his PR at The Armory in New York City. The McDowell standout cleared at least 15 feet in each of his eight meets thus far, compiling the lion's share of the state's 15 15-foot competitions during the 2016 indoor season.

Caleb Sanford (above) competes at the PTFCA Indoor State Championship (Photo by David Beyerle)

"The pole vault is a technical event," said Sanford, who also will be joined today in Manhattan by the state's other 15-0 vaulters from 2016 - State College's Griffin Thompson and Hatboro Horsham's Nicholas Marino. "Having worked on it for so many years has served me well. It has allowed me to continue to do the little technical parts of the jump correctly no matter the pressure or moment in competition.

"Also, in practice every week, we practice the sequencing of heights that we will jump at the meet two or three times over. That allows me to get the feeling and sequencing down days before a competition."

As the state's top returnees from 2015, much was expected from vaulters Sanford and Fox. A rivalry that had played out for most of the indoor season was on display for all to see at this year's indoor state final.

"I think we do bring out the best in each other," said Fox, who matched jumps with Sanford on four occasions this winter. "Going into meets with Caleb is always exciting because of the competition. He gives me a great competition on any given day.

"I feel we both push each other because there is a friendly rivalry. At the end of the day, no matter which of us wins, it's always a blast to jump against him, and I'm sure he would say the same."

Hayden Fox came on strong when it mattered most this season (Photo by Phil Grove)

While Sanford did not miss a beat this season, Fox was not at his best in a pair of meets before Christmas. He went back to a foundation piece of the event to turn things around about a month later.

"My takeoff was a huge piece of the puzzle I was missing," the Hempfield Area junior said. "So we went back to basics - getting the plant down sooner, really focusing on staying tall and driving up and in with my chest. It took a lot of frustrating practices, but it seemed to come together when it counted."

By the time Pennsylvania's best headed to State College for the PTFCA finale, Fox had the season's biggest vault at 15-9, and Sanford owned a 2-1 lead in the season series. The pair did not disappoint a packed house at Penn State as they were tied as the field was trimmed to the four NBNI competitors at 15-0.

The action then took two big swings, with Fox clearing on his first attempt at 15-0 versus a pair of jumps for Sanford and then Sanford jumped back into the lead with an initial over at 15-6.25.

"I knew I had to clear it, it was now or never," Fox said of the ensuing attempts for the duo at the final height. "Sixteen feet was anyone's bar. Caleb had a great attempt at 15-6 and is always a clutch jumper.

"I was actually hoping from the beginning it would come down to 16, and it did. I was just frustrated with myself that I couldn't deliver when it was all said and done."

While neither was able to clear 16-0 in the state final, both noted that becoming a 16-foot vaulter is their goal today in the Big Apple as they also turn their attention to the upcoming outdoor season.