High School Sports

Clarke plans on vaulting from San Luis Obispo to UCLA

Competing as a member of a Pac-10 Conference track and field program has long been a goal for Elena Clarke. She’ll soon get to live out that dream.

Clarke, a senior pole vaulter at San Luis Obispo High, has committed to UCLA and plans to sign a national letter of intent with the Bruins today, when the NCAA’s regular signing period begins.

“I’m really excited to be in that kind of a competitive atmosphere,” Clarke said.

UCLA offered her a partial scholarship, which is generally the norm in Division I track and field because of the large amount of athletes in given programs. Cal and Stanford were also among Clarke’s finalists, she said.

The Bruins’ women’s squad finished sixth at last year’s Pac-10 Championships.

This past May, Clarke won the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship in the pole vault at Cerritos College in Norwalk with a clearance of 12 feet, which tied her career personal record.

She then headed to the sectional Masters meet as a No. 2 seed, going on to place 13th at 10 feet, 9 inches.

Also as a junior, Clarke won the PAC 7 championship at Atascadero High, clearing 12 feet at that venue, as well, to tie the all-time meet record.

This upcoming season, Clarke said, her goal is to clear 13 feet.

Clarke is the latest in a line of recent San Luis Obispo girls track and field stars to land opportunities to continue their careers at the four-year college level.

Last year, Vivien Devaney, who finished second in the girls discus at the state championships, signed with Notre Dame. A senior classmate of Clarke, jumps and hurdles standout Abrianna Torres, said last week that she would likely decide on a college destination after National Signing Day. Torres, too, is being courted by numerous Pac-10 programs.

The Tigers won Southern Section Division 3 team championships in both 2008 and 2009.

Clarke has also worked for the past few years with local pole vault guru Jan Johnson, who won a bronze medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in the event.

“Going to practice at his place is really like my favorite place in the world,” Clarke said. “His whole program now is definitely what makes it my biggest passion.”

Johnson is also the father of former Atascadero High star Chelsea Johnson, who was a standout at UCLA and more recently, in 2009, won a silver medal in the event at the World Championships in Berlin.

St. Joseph High grad Tasha Kolbo, of Arroyo Grande, is also on UCLA’s roster and is another recent Johnson protégé.