Let's get the rap on Steve Slocum, Foothill High School's state pole vault champion, out of the way. Some might think Slocum backed into the title.
Brent Burns, the country's best high school pole vaulter from Acalanes High in Lafayette, figured to win his second state title with little difficulty. He came into the meet with a vault of 17-feet 5 1/2-inches, tops in the nation this season.
Burns was so sure he was going to win that he passed until the bar reached 16-2, six inches higher than any athlete had cleared in Sacramento's Hughes Stadium.
But Burns failed on three attempts.
Burns wasn't the only competitor who fell short at the meet. Pat Alduenda of Ramona High School had a best of 16-1, but failed to clear 15-6, the first height he tried.
All of which left Slocum, who cleared 15-6 but failed on three attempts at 15-10, as the state champion.
Slocum, the The Times' Orange County Athlete of the Year in boys' track, was the only county athlete to win a state title.
Said Slocum: "I've never no-heighted in my high-school career. There may be better pole vaulters, but I think I proved I'm a consistent pole vaulter.
"It was a strange series of circumstances that allowed me to win, and I felt bad for Brent. He's a great athlete. I'm the state champ, but it still hasn't hit me yet."
Slocum began the competition at 15-2 and then cleared 15-6. He went out at 15-10, picked up his workout bags and went to sit with his father, Paul, in the stands.
"I was watching Brent and thought for sure he was going to clear 16-2," Slocum said. "When he got to the third jump, I figured he was going to do it and I would finish second. The third jump is always a pressure jump, and Brent is tough under pressure."
Slocum's top mark of the season was 16-0. He predicted he would break the county record of 16-6 established by Greg Ernst of El Dorado in 1978. But the senior never approached the 16-foot mark again.
"The conditions were never right in my remaining meets," Slocum said. "Either the competition wasn't good, or the facilities weren't good or the weather was bad."
Slocum figures to get plenty of competition on Saturday. He has been invited to compete against the country's best pole vaulters at the Kibbler Invitational in Chicago.
The meet will climax a busy week of activities for Slocum that included an all-night party at Magic Mountain, a boat cruise and dance in Newport Harbor, a senior picnic and graduation exercises on Thursday.
Slocum has signed a letter of intent to attend UCLA in the fall and plans to work out this summer at UC Irvine.
THE SEASON'S TOP MARKS
BOYS 100 Meters Tony Mosley, Santa Ana 10.82 200 Meters Paul Peters, Santa Ana Valley 21.48 400 Meters Paul Peters, Santa Ana Valley 47.34 800 Meters Nick-John Haiduc, Servite 1:52.4 1,600 Meters Haissam Sabra, Ocean View 4:14.14 3,200 Meters Chris Lugo, Valencia 9:08.64 110-Meter High Hurdles George Lynch, Mater Dei 14.81 300-Meter Intermediate Hurdles Kirk Ayers, Western 37.74 400-Meter Relay Capistrano Valley 42.29 1,600-Meter Relay El Dorado 3:22.50 High Jump John Amneus, Foothill 6-10 Myron Williams, Orange 6-10 Pole Vault Steve Slocum, Foothill 16-0 Long Jump Matt Malone, Marina 23-3 Triple Jump Chris Conrad, Mater Dei 47-5 1/2 Shotput Kaleaph Carter, Edison 62-4 3/4 Discus Michael Bain, Corona del Mar 189-10