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Training Break Sends Hoover's Pearson South

Track and field: Back from trip to Mexico, defending state pole vault champion finishes fourth at Mt. SAC Relays.


WALNUT — As Hoover High pole vaulter Bridget Pearson steadied herself for her final run Saturday at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays, a short yet weighty announcement came over the public address system.

"Pearson . . . state champion . . . final attempt."

Seconds later, Pearson's third attempt to clear 11 feet, 6 inches failed and she settled for fourth place, ending a disappointing day for local vaulters. Katie Rorem of Marina won in 11-6.

For Pearson, who cleared 11-6 to win at Mt. SAC last year, and who won the 1997 state title with a 12-foot vault, the outcome was below par but no cause for anguish.

In early April, the 17-year-old junior traveled to Tijuana with a youth group from her Glendale church to help build houses for the homeless. The group camped outdoors and worked itself into a state of exhaustion each day.

Upon Pearson's return, she was excited to compete in the Arcadia Invitational on April 11. However, the pole vault was postponed because of rain.

Pearson said the two-week layoff played a large role in her performance Saturday, affecting her timing and sense of how stiff a pole to use at certain heights.

"I'm not that disappointed because I haven't had a good workout recently," said Pearson, who entered Saturday's event at 10 feet. "And I would never trade [the time in Mexico] for training.

"Today was almost an experiment to see what I could do without training for two weeks, and it was nice to see that I cleared 11 feet."

Pearson's best outside vaults this year have been 11-6, which she's cleared twice.

Other factors in what has been a frustrating season for Pearson are a growth spurt to 5 feet 11 and the aggravation of a back injury suffered five years ago in gymnastics.

The recent hiatus left Pearson's back feeling strong Saturday, but she acknowledged that the injury will be an ongoing concern.

"Before this year I'd vault three or four times a week and know exactly what pole to use for what height," Pearson said. "Now, as the heights get higher and the poles harder, it puts more strain on [the back].

"I have to learn how to handle that."

Other competitors from the region included Camarillo's Lisa Rugenstein, who tied for ninth, Canyon's Danielle Wenz, who tied for 11th, Burroughs' Christina Lee, who finished 17th and Chaminade's Dalarie Manda and Camarillo's Heather Sickler, neither of whom cleared a height.

Sickler, who won the Southern Section Division I and Masters Meet titles last season with vaults over 12 feet, crash-landed in the plant box on each of her attempts.

"My take-offs aren't right; it's been an ongoing problem for a while," she said.

Last year, Pearson was surpassed by Sickler in the Southern Section and Masters meets. Pearson rebounded to win the state title while Sickler was eliminated in the qualifying round.

Pearson is confident she will finish strong again this season.

"By the end of the season, I'll peak. I can feel it," she said. "A good day will come and hopefully it will be at state."

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