May 11, 2008

New pole vault record highlights eventful day at Modesto Relays

Everyone else was done. It was time for Jenn Stuczynski. She easily cleared a meet-record 15 feet, 5 inches on her first jump of the day in the women's pole vault at the 67th annual California Invitational Relays at Modesto Junior College.

Everyone else was done. It was time for Jenn Stuczynski.

Stuczynski easily cleared a meet-record 15 feet, 5 inches on her first jump of the day in the women's pole vault Saturday at the 67th annual California Invitational Relays at Modesto Junior College.

Mary Vincent, the runner-up at 14-9, went out at 15-1. Stuczynski then missed three times at 16-¾, which would have broken her American record of 16-0.

"The first attempt was close," she said. "I just didn't get deep enough in the pad."

Jeff Hartwig, the men's American record holder, said he saw Stuczynski clear 16-1 "by 3 or 4 inches" in warmups.

"If she doesn't break the world record (16-5¼) very, very soon, I'll be surprised," Hartwig said.

Vaulters -- men and women -- often seem to grab the spotlight here.

Mexican Olympian Giovanni Lanaro enlivened the men's competition with a jump of 19-¼. He defeated a field that included Hartwig, 2004 Olympic champ Tim Mack and 2004 Olympian Derek Miles. Meet record-holder Toby Stevenson warmed up but withdrew because of a sore Achilles' tendon.

Also Saturday, before a crowd of about 3,000, Christian Cantwell won the men's shot put with an impressive 71-4¾ (he threw 70-8½, too). Stephanie Brown Trafton's 207-8 bested a women's discus field that included hometown hero Suzy Powell (third at 200-1). Lauryn Williams doubled in the women's 100 (11.18) and 200 (22.85). Unheralded Carlos Moore took the men's 100 in a wind-aided 9.97.

And Khadevis Robinson -- always Khadevis -- won the Modesto men's 800 for the sixth year in a row, clocking 1:47.32.

Stuczynski is a 26-year-old East Coaster who, along with Russians Yelena Isinbayeva and Svetlana Feofanova, are the only members of the women's 16-foot club.

On being the top vaulter in the U.S. she said: "We're going for the world now."

Asked how high she's been jumping in practice, she teased, "I'm not supposed to say that."

Stuczynski is sort of like the new Stacy Dragila, which might be a wee bit irritating to Dragila, who happened to be competing Saturday. It was Dragila's meet record that fell Saturday -- that 15-1 in 2000 tied what was her world record at the time.

Dragila is 37 now, frequently injured the past couple years. Whereas she once dominated her American peers like Stuczynski is now, she had to settle for 14-5¼ Saturday.

But don't count her out, she said, upbeat as usual.

"I'm fine, though it might not look like it today," Dragila said. "My speed and everything is there. It's been cruddy weather in Idaho, and I haven't been able to get to my full approach (she used a short approach Saturday).

Cruddy weather is in the eye of the beholder. It was a beautiful spring low-80s day in Modesto with the wind occasionally creeping over the limit for legal marks.

"It's hot out here," Stuczynski said. "When I jumped the other day, it was 49 (degrees, in Buffalo.) That's what I'm used to."

Lanaro is used to jumping 19 feet. He was over that height frequently last season and soared a personal best 19-1¼ this season at Mt. SAC.

After clearing his winning height on his first attempt Saturday, he missed three times at 19-4¼. That will take some getting used to.

"I was confident. I was feeling good going down the runway," he said. "I just couldn't get it. ... It's high."

Lanaro cramped up on his third try and had his leg wrapped afterward.

The rest of the vaulters struggled mightily. Hartwig, Miles and Jeff Ryan were 2-3-4, all at 18-½. Sonora product Tye Harvey had to settle for 17-8½, and Olympic champ Mack no-heighted.

Harvey, who just missed making the Olympic team in 2004, said, "I've been lost for a while this spring. I got it figured out today. So this next week of practice will be exciting."

Hartwig, 40, said he and other vaulters thought perhaps the pole vault standards were pushed back a bit by a full day of vaulting, because the vaulters weren't flying deep enough over the bar.

"It's my own fault for not checking that and not making adjustments," said Hartwig, a candidate to make his second Olympic team in what he said will be his final season.

Discus thrower Brown Trafton, also with her eyes on Beijing, was pleased that she launched Saturday's winning throw on her first attempt.

"I've been working on strategy," she said. "That is actually a really good strategy for the Olympics Games because you've got to have a really good first throw to make it to the finals."

World champion women's high hurdler Michelle Perry ran the 100 meters but pulled up halfway with what she thought was a cramp. Hurdler Jenny Adams, the meet record-holder, competed in the long jump instead and finished second to Grace Upshaw's 21-11¾.

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