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1997 Boys' Track and Field Preview

El Toro's Parks Is Soaring Higher Than You Might Think

March 10, 1997|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LAKE FOREST — El Toro senior Elliott Parks just doesn't look the part.

Parks looks like he should be catching touchdown passes, not leaping over high-jump bars nearly seven feet off the ground.

Although Parks is a talented all-around athlete who is built like a football player, he has developed into one of the county's best high jumpers.

As a junior, he cleared 6 feet 10, three inches short of the county record held by Katella's Kevin Carlson. Glendale's Lee Balkin set the Southern Section record of 7-3 1/4 in 1979.

This season, Parks is gunning for the seven-foot barrier and his second consecutive state title.

Though no one disputes Parks' results in the event, there has been plenty of disbelief. Parks fooled his coach at first--he started in sprints and the long jump--and Parks even befuddled one of the legends of high jumping.

"I took him to a clinic in the summer after his sophomore season," El Toro Coach Larry Nitta said. "Dwight Stones took a look at Elliott and said that there was no way he could be a high jumper.

"He was amazed when I told him Elliott had already cleared 6-6."

Parks credits Stones for helping him refine his jumping technique. But Parks didn't listen to everything Stones had to say.

"He told me I was too big to be a jumper," Parks said. "He told me to lose weight if I ever wanted to be a really great jumper.

"But I never lost weight."

Said Nitta: "Most jumpers are tall, lanky, very lithe and athletic. Elliott looks more like a wide receiver. He has size, speed and great hands too."

Parks played with the El Toro football team as a junior, but his passion for his favorite pastime put him in some hot water with Charger Coach Mike Milner.

"Right before the playoffs started, I sprained my ankle skateboarding," Parks said. "I couldn't play at all. Coach Milner made me apologize to the whole team for that one."

The injury bug hit Parks again as a senior, during the first week of football practice.

Parks fractured a vertebrae and spent six weeks in a back brace.

"I was just running a pattern, then I made a cut and heard three pops in my back," Parks said. "Sure, it was frustrating missing all of football season.

"But it was hard too, because I couldn't do anything. I couldn't jog or do much to strengthen my legs except ride the exercise bike for six months."

The injury hasn't set back Parks' preparation for track and field. In fact, he said he feels he's ahead of last season's schedule and may add events to his high-, long- and triple-jump repertoire.

Though Nitta will ease Parks into his senior track season--Parks won't compete in the triple jump in early meets to ease the pounding on his back--Parks wants to help his team as much as possible. He said he is willing to chip in where he can.

So he wouldn't mind crossing over to challenge his high-jumping partners, Murle Sango and Mike Smith, in other events like the sprints or hurdles?

"We kid each other," Parks said. "I remind Murle that during football season, I ran a faster 40 time than he did. But he always says that he would beat me at 100 meters."

Parks began his track career at El Toro as a sprinter, until Nitta used him as a high jumper out of necessity.

"We needed a high jumper, so Elliott just tried it out," Nitta said.

Parks knew he was hooked after a league meet in his freshman season.

"We were at San Clemente, and my first jump, I cleared 5-10. Then later, I jumped 6 feet, then 6-2. I improved my PR [personal record] by four inches in only one day."

Parks has improved four inches every season, so he feels seven feet is well within reach. Nitta is in full agreement.

"Maybe he's not the prototype jumper," Nitta said. "But since Elliott was a sophomore, he's really come on like gangbusters.

"When you start to get to the seven-foot barrier, a lot of it is mental. Now there are some who will fail when faced with an obstacle like that.

"But others will really go after it. Elliott is like that. He's the best we've had."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Boys' Track and Field at a Glance

Top sprinters and hurdlers: Steve Anstead, Dana Hills, Sr.; Ray Bardone, Edison, Sr.; Jim Bittner, Katella, Sr.; James Brown, Dana Hills, Jr.; Charles Crook, Katella, Sr.; Dominique DeGrammont, Tustin, Sr.; Scott Dicus, El Modena, Sr.; Chris Felix, Estancia, Sr.; Jamaal Footman, Esperanza, Sr.; DeShaun Foster, Tustin, Jr.; Juan Lomeli, Saddleback, Sr.; Chuck Loo, Newport Harbor, Jr.; Mike McNair, Mater Dei, Jr.; Billy Newman, Santa Margarita, Sr.; Robert Peinado, Savanna, Sr.; Mike Smith, El Toro, Sr.; Will Stovall, Woodbridge, Sr.; Shane Vickers, Tustin, Sr.; Al Williams, Irvine, Jr.; Jon West, Sonora, Sr.

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