SHIPPENSBURG — Lifelong gymnast Nadia Constantakis remembers being a newcomer to the Pine-Richland track team, working out with the sprinters and having a revelation.

"I wanted something more exciting,” she said Friday, thinking back to her sophomore year. "When I was looking around the track, I saw the pole vaulters handstand walking and doing cartwheels down the field. I thought that was right up my alley.”

She was obviously correct.

Now a senior, Constantakis placed second in the state Friday afternoon at the PIAA track and field championships with a vault of 12 feet, 6 inches. The height was a new personal best and broke the Pine-Richland school record. Her second-place finish was also the best for a WPIAL girl in Class 3A since Hempfield’s Bridget Guy won a state title in 2014 — also with a 12 foot, 6 inch vault.

Only two WPIAL girls have vaulted higher than Constantakis at states regardless of classification. Waynesburg’s Taylor Shriver cleared 13 feet in 2021 and Hempfield’s Larissa Debich topped 12-9 in 2012. Shriver was a Class 2A champion that year and Debich won 3A.

That puts Constantakis in rare territory.

"I felt amazing after today,” she said. "In the beginning, the weather was perfect, so I knew I had good opportunity to compete with some of the best high school vaulters in the state.”

Constantakis cleared 10 feet, 6 inches on her first attempt and took two tries each to achieve 11 feet and 11-6. She topped 12 feet on her first attempt and needed only two tries at 12-6.

Her previous best height was 12-1.

She finished tied with Villa Maria Academy’s Maddy Kelley for second, so the two shared a spot on the medals stand. This came a week after Constantakis finished sixth at the WPIAL championship with a vault of 11-6. The only girl to finish ahead of her Friday was Mount St. Joseph Academy’s Veronica Vacca, who broke a PIAA championship record with a vault of 14 feet.

"I knew I had to have an almost perfect day to compete with all of the talent around,” said Constantakis, who finished eighth at states a year ago.

2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣4️⃣ PIAA Track & Field
Girls Pole Vault AAA Champion


Veronica Vacca, Mount Saint Joseph

— PIAA (@PIAASports) May 24, 2024

Constantakis said her gymnastics background — having started around kindergarten — surely helped her rise quickly in her new sport. She vaulted 8 feet as a sophomore, but already had the strength and balance needed to position herself in the air thanks to gymnastics.

When Pine-Richland won a WPIAL gymnastics team title in February, Constantakis had the Rams’ highest scores on the beam and floor. She said she can see overlapping skills.

"Gymnastics is focused on technique and pole vault is definitely technique-base,” she said. "And all of the strength used for pole vault, I gained that through all of the years I’ve been in gymnastics.”

There’s also the knack of flipping over the bar with confidence.

"It just comes naturally through all of my years of gymnastics,” she said.

But despite all of the natural abilities she developed before track, Constantakis still credited her state championship success to the coaches who’ve taught her the intricacies of vaulting: Pine-Richland track assistants Todd Jones and Jason Spudic and private coach Bradi Rhoades of the Vault Shack in Volant.

"I definitely couldn’t have done it without the three amazing pole vault coaches that I have,” said Constantakis, who plans to attend Duquesne and hopes to vault there.

The pole vault pit at Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium is setup in front of the grandstands, so vaulters are met with "oohs” and "ahhs” on each attempt. There was a large crowd on Friday with around 5,000 spectators, not counting the other athletes and coaches around the stadium.

Constantakis heard them all.

"I think the crowd actually helped me,” she said. "I worked off of the competition and the crowd being around me and cheering me on.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at

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