Entering Thursday’s PAC 7 Championships at Atascadero High, all San Luis Obispo High junior pole vaulter Connor Hall wanted was to clear 13 feet, 5 inches to move on to the CIF-Southern Section preliminaries.
Well, he blew that expectation to pieces.
Thanks to a strong tailwind, Hall cleared 16-0 to not only set a meet record but he nearly became the best county pole vaulter ever. His three attempts at 16-3 — two inches more than the county record, according to his coach, Jan Johnson — came up short.
“We had amazing conditions, a massive tailwind,” Hall said. “I’ve been peaking a little bit but not too much because I wanted to keep on going. My legs were feeling great. I’m just incredibly happy with how today went. I couldn’t be happier.”
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Judging by the numerous smiles on many of the county athletes after their event, he wasn’t the only one.
The Arroyo Grande boys won six events en route to 164 points, and the San Luis Obispo girls had a 183-171 edge over Arroyo Grande to take home the team title.
Christine Hoffmann won three titles, finishing the girls 800-meter run in 2 minutes, 20.12 seconds, the 1600 in 5:04.01 and the 3,200 in 10:59.10. In the latter event, the senior broke her own meet mark of 11:03.09 that she set last year. Teammate Ariel Becker won two events for the Tigers: the 100 in 12.48 and the long jump with a mark of 18-9½.
And San Luis Obispo teammate Alexandria Dalley captured the triple jump title with a mark of 35-10½.
Arroyo Grande’s Jackson Zimmerman cleared 6-5½ in the boys high jump to break a nine-year meet mark by a one-half inch.
Other Eagles boys event winners included Elijah Holt (110 hurdles, 15.17), Issac Debow (300 hurdles, 41.16), Gabe Deleon (long jump, 21-0), Brandon Berguia (discus, 164-0) and Garrett Weinreich (shot put, 59-0).
As for Paso Robles’ Zander Souza, he was aiming for three titles but in the boys 3,200, which marked the first time he ran the event, the senior began grimacing in pain and placing both hands on his stomach. He finished in 11:04.13 in a race that was won by one of his main rivals, San Luis Obispo’s Seamus Land, who came in 9:39.71.
“It was like my stomach ran out of gas,” said Souza, who won the 800 in 1:58.50 and the 1,600 in 4:23.57. “Every time I moved, it just got more and more painful. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced that. But the 1,600 and 800 went well, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment. It was a mental bummer.”
Arroyo Grande’s Madison Jacobs won both the girls discus and shot put with marks of 139-11 and 40-10, respectively.
The Eagles won both girls relays.
For San Luis Obispo’s Hall, he was glad to go home with the pole vault title — especially because he only started the event last summer under the guidance of Johnson, a 1972 Olympic bronze medalist.
Last summer, Johnson told Hall he could clear 16-0. Hall didn’t want to believe it, but that all changed Thursday.
Having a strong tailwind helped, too.
“We haven’t had good conditions all spring,” Johnson said. “It seemed like every meet, we had the wind blowing in our face or it was raining. He’s been ready to jump higher but he hasn’t had a good opportunity or conditions to jump higher.
“So he felt he was ready to go 16.”