With one glorious leap on Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Pust served notice to the rest of the state.
The Golden Valley High senior has a state pole vault title in his sights.
Pust defended his Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Track and Field Championship title in impressive fashion, taking the crown with a leap of 16 feet, 5 inches. That’s one inch better than the state championship jump from a year ago.
“I wasn’t really hoping for anything big today, so I kind of exceeded expectations,” Pust said. “Sixteen-five was a good jump. I didn’t really feel nervous about it, I just knew I could do it. Then I went to 17-1. I was a little nervous, but also knew I could do it, and I just missed it.
“It was nice to defend my title and I feel confident going into Masters. I feel like I have a really good shot of winning Masters and state.”
The Division I meet kicked off on Wednesday at Elk Grove High with the trials, but pole vault was one of six events to hold finals.
Pust wasn’t the only local winner.
Golden Valley’s Afolabi Olabode also defended his shot put title with a toss of 58-31/4 and Buhach Colony’s Barbara Coward avenged a second-place finish in the discus a year ago with a title-clinching throw of 135-1. Denise Bates of Merced finished eighth in the discus and will move on to next week’s Masters, as will Atwater’s Armando Gauger in the shot put.
It was a nice afternoon for the Coward sisters.
Brandy Coward advanced to Friday’s finals as the top qualifier for both the 100- and 200-yard races and teamed up with Barbara, Vanessa Andrade and Rai Ajua Slaton to advance the Thunder girls in the 4x100 relay.
The boys 4x100 relay teams from Buhach Colony (Anthony Piko, Quintin Levesque, Stephen Eastman, DiAngelo Andrews) and Atwater (Ezequiel Gutierrez, Edward Kemp, Angelo Olmos, Daniel Uribe) reached the finals, as well.
Kemp also secured himself a place in the boys 100 and 200 finals.
Other individual qualifiers include Golden Valley’s Jashaan Wright (110 hurdles), Uribe and Merced’s Jamar Turner (300 hurdles), Merced’s Abel Aleman (800) and Atwater’s Alex Vargas (800).