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But to get back to Casey Carrigan and the battle of the heights. The third of five boys, Casey is following in an athletic tradition. Brother Andy Carrigan, a linebacker, just graduated from Stanford, and Brother Mike Carrigan, a defensive halfback, may start for the Indians next year. Behind Casey is 15-year-old Tim, who plays basketball and football. At 11, little Clancey, well, he's setting his sights. As befitting his status, Casey Carrigan was the last Golden West athlete to check into the El Rancho, coming up from Stanford on Saturday morning with Mike. The numeral he would wear on his back that night was, of course, No. 1.
It wasn't until the bar reached 16 feet and a field of eight had been pared to three that Carrigan picked up his pole in earnest. At 16'4", Dave Roberts of Conroe, Texas missed on his third attempt, leaving Carrigan with an old friend, Steve Smith of Torrance, Calif., who had beaten him in the Coliseum-Compton Relays the preceding week. The bar went to 16'8". Carrigan made the height on his first try, and Smith, struggling, cleared it on his third.
"We had a pole-vaulting pit for the kids in the backyard years ago," said Casey's father, Paul Carrigan, who drives a logging truck in Orting, which is 20 miles southeast of Tacoma. "From the time I can remember, Casey was always swinging from trees, jumping and running, things like that. We lived in the foothills at the base of Mt. Rainier, and it seemed that Casey was always outdoors, doing something."
The bar was raised to 17 feet. Carrigan, sitting at the top of the runway, his back to the pit, adjusted his shoes. Then he got up and walked to the box, where he took off his white sweat pants, folded them neatly and placed them in the box. "Seagren and all the good ones do that," his father said. "It cushions the pole when it hits. Helps absorb the shock." The meet announcer told the crowd that the bar was at 17 feet, and Casey Carrigan sprinted down the runway. Up, up, up and over he went, clearing the bar with half a foot to spare. The crowd of 4,000, warming to this now, erupted in applause. Three tries and Steve Smith was out—on this night just another high school pole vaulter who has gone 16'8�".
" Casey always does his best when he gets down here in California," his father continued. "The weather up home isn't too good in the spring. Why, there were lots of times Casey and I would go over to the high school pit at Tenino, and there'd be sawdust and water from the melted snow still sitting there in the box. He could never get going."
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention to the pole-vault area, where Casey Carrigan will try to become the first high school boy ever to Vault 17'4�"." The announcement was unnecessary.
Again, the shoes were adjusted. Then the walk to the pit, the pants folded and placed in the box, just so. And again, down the runway came Casey Carrigan—"Casey O. Carrigan," his mother said. "It doesn't stand for anything. It just sounds nice, don't you think?" Up, up, and over. Another roar. The track meet was finished for everybody except Casey Carrigan. The crowd had spilled out of the stands and was gathered around the pole-vault area.
"The bar, ladies and gentlemen, is at 17'10�". Casey Carrigan will make three attempts at this height, and if he succeeds he will have gone higher than anyone has vaulted before."
Carrigan failed on his first attempt.
"How do you feel, kid?" an official asked him.