Nine feet might not seem like much in retrospect but for Otay Ranch sophomore pole vaulter Alexander Law, it meant everything at the time.
“If you cleared nine feet, you got to move up to varsity,” he said.
Law made the height last year to move up from the Mustangs’ junior varsity team, eventually finishing his freshman year at 10-6.
He has soared well above that figure this season — and the rest of the Metro Conference, for that matter.
Law set a new school record by clearing 14 feet at the Mt. Carmel Invitational on March 26. He tied that mark at the 2011 Mustang/East Hills Realty Relays on April 23.
He’s not finished yet.
“My goal this year is to clear 14-6 and win the league title,” he said. “By my senior year, I want to clear 17 feet.”
Lofty goals, but Law — all 118 pounds of him — has already proven he can defy gravity, at least for a few seconds.
Like many who have taken up the event, it was quite by accident.
“I just thought I would try it for the fun of it and I turned out to be a natural at it,” he said, smiling.
It could turn out to be a watershed moment in his life.
“I’d like to continue vaulting in college — if I can hit 17 feet by the time I’m a senior in high school, the Olympic standards are not that far off.”
It certainly is great motivational material.
Law said there are two key components to executing a successful pole vault: speed and upper body strength.
“Speed is really a big thing (on the approach),” he said. “If you want to be good at the sport, you have to keep on doing it and be dedicated.”
Because of his slight build, Law said he benefits a little both ways in terms of upper body strength.
“It helps me in that I am able to push myself up because I don’t weight that much but it’s holding me back because I need more strength,” he said.
Having a teammate who also holds a school record in the event — senior Tiffany Smith — has obviously helped Law mature rapidly in the sport.
Smith holds the girls record at 11-6 and is the defending Mesa League champion in the event. She has reason to soar this season after signing a track and field scholarship to attend Idaho State this coming fall.
She won her division by clearing 10-6 at the Mustang Relays.
She also dreams of reaching untold heights.
“At the NCAA Division I level, they’re jumping in the 14s,” she said.
Idaho State competes in the Big Sky Conference. The Bengals’ current leader in the event is Kaylee Gleason at 13-1.5.
The lure of the ISU campus, its coaching staff and facilities were just too much to turn down.
“I just want to improve my marks and want to be competitive with the rest of the team,” she said. “I feel with the appropriate coaching that I can be right up there where they’re at.”
Smith can pinpoint exactly when she fell in love with the event. It came while watching her older brother Jeff (now a senior at UCLA) compete in it.
“It’s not exactly that easy,” she admitted. “I’ve had to learn a lot to be able to do what I’m doing now.”
Could they be destined for greatness?
The high school state track and field championship meet is reserved for an elite cadre of student-athletes — something that Otay Ranch sophomore Carina Gillespie and Eastlake senior Jordan Hines already have membership in ... and what Otay Ranch seniors Marques Roberts and Jon Bajet would like to join.
Hines finished fifth in the state in the boys triple jump last year while Gillespie qualified for the 800-meter run as a freshman.
Roberts, last year’s Mesa League champion in the boys long jump and triple jump, has already bettered Hines’ top mark of last year (48-2.75) with a jump of 49 feet, 4 inches (though wind-aided). Hines stands next in the Metro Conference this season at 48-7.5 — already 4.75 inches farther than last year’s medal jump at the state finals.
But things only appear to be heating up.
The 2011 league finals are scheduled May 14 at Otay Ranch HIgh School. The section prelims and finals follow the next two Saturdays leading up to the state championships the first weekend in June in Clovis.
“We have several athletes who have a good chance of qualifying for the state meet,” ORHS coach Ian Cumming said. “But they have to perform well at the end of the season to get there.”
Bajet led the section in the boys discus throw (160-10) before being upped by Steele Canyon's Sean Boozel at the Mustang Relays.
Gillespie’s 2:15.34 in the 800 run ranked second in the section entering the Mustang Relays.