Bulletin Staff Report
WALNUT, Calif. — Stehl Ratliff and Caden Ellis, known collectively as “The Brownwood Flyboys,” finished first and sixth, respectively, in the pole vault competition at the 41st annual USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships on July 26.
Competing against other 13- and 14-year-olds from throughout the nation, Ratliff claimed the gold medal with his career-best meet performance of 13-3. Ratliff, who will enter the eighth grade at Brownwood, easily outdistanced the runner-up, Alex Koppy from Arizona, whose best height was 11-10.
Ratliff previously posted a best competition height of 12-9, which he eclipsed at Hilmer Lodge Stadium on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College.
Ellis, who will be a freshman at Brownwood High, finished sixth out of the field of 39 national qualifiers. Ranked No. 3 by the USATF in his age division prior to the meet, Ellis cleared 10-6 in California. His career competition best is 11-0.
An estimated 6,000 athletes participated in this year’s USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships. Entry into the field was based on performances at preliminary, association and regional levels of the USATF Junior Olympic Program.
Prior to their trip to California, the Brownwood Flyboys competed in the June 28 Southwest Junior Olympic Championships in Lancaster, along with the Region 12 Junior Olympic Championships in Odessa on July 13.
The top three performers at the Region 12 meet — which included competitors from Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas — advanced to the national competition. Ratliff finished first and Ellis came in third to earn their trips to the USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
Ratliff is the son of Bryce and Janet Ratliff. Ellis is the son of Thad Ellis and Brandi Reigle.