Jason Hinkin soared just shy of 18 feet Saturday to win the pole vault at the Big West Challenge Cup and promptly called the effort disappointing.
"I'm waiting for some new equipment that is supposed to be in this week," he said, referring to several longer, stiffer poles. "Then I can really get up there."
Hinkin, a junior from Los Gatos who thought his career was over a year ago when he broke his left leg just above the ankle, has been sensational this season. He went 18-6 1/2 this year to win the NCAA Indoor Championships and he has his eyes set on clearing 19-2 by the end of the season.
That may be the reason his vault of 17-10 3/4 on a blustery day at Cal State Fullerton last weekend could be considered only average. Hinkin said it will take a leap of 18-8 or better to win at the Mt. SAC Relays April 18-20, where he will jump against some of the world's best in the open division.
At 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds, Hinkin doesn't look like the average pole vaulter.
"I'm short," he said. "All the big guys in this sport are over six feet tall. That's an advantage because the physics of trying to bend the pole are better for them. They have a greater take-off angle than I do because of their size."
Hinkin compensates with more speed down the runway and with an old-fashioned, but vigorous, off-season workout program.
"There's nothing secret about what I do," he said. "I pull a lot of sleds with weights on them. I do a lot of weight training."
Hinkin won the Big West pole vault championship in the spring of 1995 and was ranked No. 5 in the nation. In January of last year he fell on the near side of the bar on a jump,landed in the steel pole vault box and broke his leg. He was still limping in August when he tried a comeback and failed.
Hinkin appears to have put all that behind him. He says he will go to Europe to compete this summer and wants to compete for an Olympic spot in 2000.
Last weekend, softball Coach Pete Manarino called back-to-back doubleheaders with New Mexico State and Cal State Northridge "must-win situations."
Well, the 49ers went 3-1 to revive their Big West title hopes. And when they swept Utah State Tuesday, the 49ers (30-13-1, 12-6) moved into second place, a half-game behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (31-8, 12-5).
Long Beach plays doubleheaders at Sacramento State Friday and at Pacific Saturday.
If you believe in national rankings, the 49ers, picked to win the Big West by conference coaches in a preseason poll, should strengthen their title bid by the end of the week. Long Beach is ranked 13th in the nation; Pacific is 24th.
The surprise team has been Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which is facing what shapes up to be a crucial, season-ending doubleheader May 4 at Long Beach. The Mustangs were picked to finish sixth by conference coaches.
An impressive sweep of host Pacific last weekend leaves the 49er baseball team one game short of the school record for consecutive conference victories. Long Beach has won 13 in a row in the Big West and 17 of its last 20 overall.
Just past the halfway point of the season, the 49ers lead second-place Cal State Fullerton by four games in the Big West's Southern Division. Long Beach opens a three-game series at Fullerton at 7 p.m. Friday.
The finale of the three-game series with Pacific Sunday was marred by a protest from Pacific baseball Coach Quincey Noble. Noble said the 49ers violated conference rules because a player whom they suspected was not on the travel roster was seated in the bleachers, charting pitches thrown by Tigers. Long Beach, which hit .407 in the series, won, 10-3.
Remember when Long Beach State was founded as Los Angeles/Orange County College? Well, it could still be called that today, at least in the eyes of baseball Coach Dave Snow.
Former county players had a hand in the sweep of Pacific, accounting for 30 hits in 59 at-bats. And in 12 innings of work, county pitchers, led by eight strong innings of work from Esperanza graduate Marcus Jones in Saturday's 11-1 victory, did not allow an earned run and struck out 11.
The 49ers end the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season in men's volleyball at USC Tuesday at 7 p.m. The event features USC senior middle blocker Eric Seiffert against his brother, Chris, a freshman setter for Long Beach. Long Beach swept the first meeting in three games. Eric Seiffert was held to nine kills. Chris had 57 assists and 10 digs. Both attended Capistrano Valley High.
Softball second baseman Amanda Favorite has set a school record with 59 walks this season. . . . Last week, the men's volleyball team beat San Diego State but was upset at Cal State Northridge in three games, only the fourth time the 49ers (17-9) have lost in three. Gaby Amar had a career-high 46 kills in a four-game victory over San Diego State. His total was third-best in school history.
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Here's a look at key games this week for Long Beach State:
* Baseball plays a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton with games at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
* Softball makes a swing up north for key doubleheaders at Sacramento State 1 p.m. Friday and Pacific noon Saturday.
* Women's tennis is at UC Irvine at 1:30 p.m. today and against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at UC Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. Sunday.
* Men's volleyball hosts senior night Friday against Loyola Marymount and finishes the regular season at USC Tuesday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m.