Golden Valley High School senior pole vaulter Ryan Pust has one number on his mind today when he hits the runway at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships in Elk Grove.
Pust wants to clear 17 feet.
The lofty goal has been almost an obsession for Pust during his high school career. Seventeen feet is the school record set by Mike Landers in 2001.
“I’m feeling confident,” said Pust, who cleared a personal best 16 feet, 5 inches in winning the section Division I championship last week. “I’ve had really good practices this week. I’m confident I’m going to jump 17 feet or higher.”
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The top track and field athletes will join Pust at Elk Grove High today and Friday to try to earn a top three finish to earn a trip to the CIF State Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis next week.
The boys pole vault is the first event today, starting at 2 p.m. The running trials start at 4.
Pust is one of the few local athletes with a great shot at bringing home a section title. Pust’s vault of 16-5 last week was the top mark in the section. Golden Valley teammate Afolabi Olabode also comes in with the top mark in the shot put after his throw of 58-3 that won the Division I championship last week.
Buhach Colony’s Brandy Coward comes in seeded No. 1 in the 100 and 200-meter dashes after posting times of 12.10 and 24.45 seconds, respectively. Her 200 mark tied the Division 1 meet record. Her twin sister Barbara is seeded second in the discus after winning the Division I championship with a throw of 135-1.
Chasing a record held by Landers is nothing new for Pust. He’s been doing it all through high school.
Landers held the freshman pole vault record of 13 feet. Pust broke it with a leap of 13-8. Pust broke Landers’ sophomore record of 14 by clearing 14-6.
When Pust couldn’t be Landers’ junior record of 16-3, he was disappointed. He almost gave up the pole vault to focus on another event.
“I think he was very disappointed after not getting that junior record,” said Tim Pust, who is Ryan’s father and the Golden Valley track coach. “It put him to a decision. He was either going to be done with the pole vault or he was going to rededicate himself to it. Since then he’s done nothing but work hard to go after 17 feet.”
Tim Pust has been coaching pole vaulters for 20 years. He coached Landers in high school and he knows when vaulters are ready to break out with big jumps.
He knew Landers was on the verge of something special before he cleared 17 feet. He thinks his son is ready to do the same thing.
“I absolutely do,” the Golden Valley coach said. “He’s put together a string of consistent high jumps the last couple weeks. It’s going to happen. Whether it happens this week at the Masters, I’m not sure, but he’s going to clear 17-plus in the next couple (of) weeks.”
Ryan Pust has really focused on improving two technical aspects to his vaults all season. He’s been focused on his launch, jumping off his run, making sure he keeps his left leg extended instead of curling up into a ball. He’s also worked on the timing between the swinging of his arms and the swinging of his legs.
“That’s been the difference these last few weeks,” Tim Pust said. “You can see the difference with those two technical aspects. You can see he’s where he’s supposed to be and that’s helped him get on those longer, stiffer poles that really allow him to get up there. He’s really making it look easy.”
Landers, who is also a family friend, isn’t sure if his record will still be standing after these next two weeks.
“Mike was able to watch me at the state meet last year,” Ryan Pust said. “He won’t be able to make it this year. He did say he’s kind of nervous after watching my 16-5 jump on video. He said he’s scared I’m going to break his record.”