High school state track meets: Episcopal’s Parish Kitto finds pole vault to her liking _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Episcopal's Parish Kitto, right, runs the 100-meter hurdles ahead of Zachary's Candace Baity, center, and Episcopal's Madison Underwoon at Broadmoor's Bat Gourrier Relays on March 23.

Episcopal senior Parish Kitto is a quick study in every track event she’s tried.

Twelve years of high level gymnastics helped strengthen her 5-foot-11 frame. Kitto was looking for a change of sports as a sophomore, and she tried the pole vault. This season she began training in the hurdles in January and set the Episcopal record in the 100-meter hurdles in 15.71 seconds.

She also set the Episcopal record in the pole vault this season by clearing 12 feet, 4 inches.

Kitto will compete in four events for Episcopal at Friday’s LHSAA Class 2A state track meet. The Episcopal boys and girls are two-time defending state champions.

Kitto was second at state in 2015 in the pole vault in 11-6. Catholic High of New Iberia’s Reagann LeLeux won the event in a Class 2A record 12-7. Kitto and LeLeux will battle in one of the more intriguing pole vault matchups.

Kitto and sophomore LeLeux both cleared 12-0 at regionals, but Kitto was first because she made the height on her second jump. LeLeux, who has won two straight outdoor and three straight indoor pole vault state titles, is the younger sister of Morgann LeLeux, who set the composite pole vault mark of 13-9 in 2011.

“I’m very excited about the state meet,” Kitto said. “I’ve never been more motivated to compete and to jump higher. I feel well-prepared, and my body feels good. I feel a really good jump coming. I’m hoping to get 12-6 at state.”

Kitto said LeLeux is also a former gymnast and a fierce competitor.

“I’m going in the mentality that I’m going to beat her,” Kitto said.

The pole vault competition begins at 1:30 p.m. Running events starts at 5 p.m.

Kitto will run a leg on the 4x200 relay, the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles.

“Parish came to track late,” EHS girls coach Eddie Cole said. “Her competitive drive in gymnastics has carried over to track and field. She is the best pole vaulter I’ve ever coached and is very fast. She’s talented and getting stronger. Her best days in the pole vault are ahead of her.”

Kitto has cleared 12-0 in four of her past five outdoor meets. Her best vault as a sophomore was 9-6.

In the 300 hurdles at regionals, Kitto set a personal record of 47.41 seconds and finished second behind senior teammate Madison Underwood. Kitto was first at regionals in the 100 hurdles in 16.30. She clocked 15.71 and 15.72 in her two previous meets. Ouachita Christian’s Carlyle Wirtz has run 15.72.

Episcopal also will count on Alicia Stamey and others in the distance events, Deven Kimbrell in the 400 meters and its three relay teams.

The 4x200 relay team ran a season-best 1:48.21 to finish second to Madison Prep at regionals. Episcopal and Madison Prep were 1-2 in the team race at regionals.

Kitto is the lead runner on the 4x200. Underwood, Jamiee Williams and Kimbrell follow. Episcopal lost two accomplished sprinters from last season, but Cole said his team has really competed in the relays and been good with the exchanges.

“I think we’ll be fine in the relay,” Kitto said. “We’re all individual competitors and work well together.”

“It should be a real battle between us and Madison Prep at state,” Cole said. “Our kids have really put the work in. We’ll see how it turns out.”