Joe Davidson

Oak Ridge’s Laut soars to state pole vault crown

Austin Laut
Austin Laut

Austin Laut was a champion, the setting sun reflecting off his gold medal and his broad grin.

Yet there he was Saturday evening hauling all of his pole vault gear off the infield and to the warmup pit, nearly to the parking lot. And he was glad to play the role of pack mule.

The Oak Ridge High School senior capped his unbeaten season in style, winning the 97th CIF State Championship pole vault title at 15 feet, 9 inches in front of a full and festive crowd of nearly 10,000 in ideal conditions at Veterans Stadium. Laut headed home to El Dorado Hills somewhere near cloud nine as the region’s lone champion in a meet again dominated by Southern California runners, sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers.

“So excited, so proud,” Laut said. “I dreamed of this.”

He dreamed of winning this despite having to shake his father, William Laut, a time or two Friday night in a nearby hotel because of snoring. And he dreamed of a better start than his stress-filled preliminary round, in which he missed on his first two attempts, nearly derailing his title hopes before they got off the ground.

“That’s when it was pretty stressful, trying to get through Friday,” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley said. “Normally, Austin clears early and puts the pressure on everyone else. He finished strong. What a great year.”

Laut missed clearing his lifetime best of 16-3, but he wasn’t too upset.

“I was hoping for 16-3, but 15-9 did the trick,” Laut said.

Headed to Yale to study economics, Laut recalled clearing 10 feet without a bend in his pole as a freshman, and no-heighting last year in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet. He said he gained his desire to compete from his father, who dabbled in gymnastics and diving as a prep in Ohio. And he learned to fend for himself as a triplet with brother Grant and sister Sabrina.

“Pole vaulting has given me so much,” Laut said. “It gave me confidence. It gave me great teammates, gave me patience and the ability to jump under pressure.”

And it’s given him memories to last a lifetime.

The region’s best hope of winning a running championship hinged on the slight frame of Fiona O’Keeffe. The Davis junior star ran the nation’s second-best 3,200-meter time last week in a rousing rout in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet in 10 minutes, 0.85 seconds. She had the lead here for eight laps before state 1,600-meter leader Destiny Collins of Great Oak of Temecula overtook her with a remarkable kick with 300 meters to go, roaring home to a standing ovation in 9:53.79, by far the top mark in the country this season and the fourth best all-time nationally. O’Keeffe finished second in 10:01.14.

Collins said she was “so motivated” to win this race after placing third in the 1,600 two hours earlier.

Arturo Sotomayor of Roseville battled illness and a great field to place fifth in the 800 in 1:53.70.

Other highlights:

  • Tre’Shon Woods of Roseville was third in the 300 boys hurdles in 37.46 seconds.
  • Football linemen rivals and friends Darrin Paulo of Grant and Jonah Williams of Folsom were on the same victory stand again, placing fifth and sixth, respectively, in the shot put. Paulo went 59 feet, 11 1/4 inches and Williams 59-6 1/4.
  • The Davis 1,600 relay team of Willie Hall, Blake Croft, Alexander McIntyre and Ben Salcedo was fourth in 3:15.83, the top time in Northern California this season and the fourth best in regional history
  • Arturo Sotomayor of Roseville battled illness and a great field to place fifth in the 800 in 1:53.70.
  • Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta pulled away to gasps of the crowd to win the 400 in 45.19, tied for the best mark in national prep history. Myles Ellis of Antelope was sixth in 48.35, a week after he set a personal best in winning the Masters in 47.47.
  • Norman, a junior, later won the 200 in 20.30, a state record and sixth all-time nationally. John McDonald of Lincoln of Stockton was third in 21.34.
  • Jasmyne Graham of Roosevelt in Eastvale outleaned defending champion Mecca McGlaston of Dublin in the meet’s most fantastic finish, 13.17 seconds to 13.18 in the 100 hurdles, the second- and third-fastest times in national history. Graham later won the 300 hurdles in a nation-leading 40.73. Jurnee Woodward of Vacaville was second in 41.17.
  • Zaria Francis of Rio Mesa of Oxnard won the girls 100 in a national-leading best 11.31, the seventh-fastest time in state history, a list that includes great American sprinters Angela Williams, Marion Jones and Allyson Felix.
  • T.J. Brock of Chaminade of West Hills won the boys 100 in 10.34, the third-fastest time in the country this year.
  • Amanda Gehrich of Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita won the 1,600 in a national-leading best 4:39.10, making her the fifth-fastest runner in the event in prep history.
  • Ross Walker of Del Campo placed seventh in the 1,600 in 4:11.31. He had the top preliminary time of 4:13.78.
  • Kennedy Jones of Castro Valley won the girls triple jump with a lifetime best of 42-5 1/4, the third-best effort in the country.
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