Chelsea Johnson's meteoric rise in the girls' pole vault continued Saturday in the high school portion of the Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut when the Atascadero senior cleared a meet-record 13 feet 4 inches, the second-best outdoor mark by a high school girl.
Johnson won the 300-meter low hurdles in the Southern Section Division III championships last season, but she hasn't run that race this spring after taking up the pole vault in December.
"I never really had that much fun with the hurdles," Johnson said. "I did it more because I was good at it and that's never a good reason to do something."
Johnson is the daughter of Jan Johnson, the 1972 Olympic bronze medalist in the men's pole vault and a highly regarded vault coach who helped guide Shayla Balentine of Morro Bay to a national record of 13-8 in the state championships last June. But Chelsea didn't take up the vault until December because she always felt she lacked the necessary time to devote to it while competing in volleyball and soccer.
"I decided to give myself a month to focus on it," she said. "And I really enjoyed it."
Johnson competed in the shadow of Rachel Viau of Arroyo Grande during the first part of the season. But she cleared 12-0 to defeat Viau for the San Luis Obispo County title on April 6 and added six inches to that mark in defeating Viau and several other top-flight vaulters in the Arcadia Invitational last week.
Then came Saturday, when she cleared 11-0 on her second attempt, 11-6, 12-0, 12-6 and 13-0 on her first attempts and 13-4 on her third try. She missed three attempts at a national-record 13-9.
"I could feel it coming," said the UCLA-bound Johnson said. "Today was the day and I had a little luck."
Johnson, who also finished sixth in the invitational race of the 100 high hurdles with a 15.05 clocking, produced one of six marks in the meet that lead the nation.
The others were turned in by Allyson Felix of North Hills L.A. Baptist in the girls' 200, Tunisia Johnson of Long Beach Poly in the 300 low hurdles, Long Beach Poly in the girls' 400 relay, Woodland Hills Taft in the boys' 800 relay and Simi Valley Royal in the boys' distance medley relay.
Felix, a junior, ran 23.05 seconds in the girls' 200 to move to ninth on the all-time national list and to fifth on the all-time state list. She also ran a sizzling 51.5 leg in the 1,600 relay to help L.A. Baptist finish second in its heat in 3 minutes 58.49 seconds.
The USC-bound Johnson won the 300 low hurdles in 42.58 and the Poly girls' 400 relay team, anchored by Shalonda Solomon, won in 45.83.
The Taft team, anchored by Noah Smith, ran 1:26.02 to win the boys' 800 relay for the second consecutive year.
Royal won the boys' distance medley relay in 10:13.28 after Travis Patterson ran 4:12.1 on his 1,600 anchor leg.
Poly posted runaway victories in the boys' and girls' team scoring that was contested at Mt. SAC for the first time.
Freshman Alan Webb of Michigan, who set a national high school record of 3:53.43 in the mile last year, finished ninth in the final heat of the university-open men's 1,500 meters.
Webb, the U.S. leader in the mile as a senior at South Lakes High in Reston, Va., last year, was making his collegiate track debut after being sidelined with Achilles' tendonitis.
He was timed in 3:44.74 in a race won by Adrian Blincoe of Villanova in 3:41.85.
Webb took the lead 250 meters into the race and led the field through 400 meters in 59.9 and 800 in 2:00.6. He appeared to lose his momentum around the final curve, however, when Ryan Hayden of Villanova shoved him from behind after Webb appeared to cut in front of him prematurely.
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TRACK AND FIELD
What: Mt. San Antonio College Relays
Where: Mt. San Antonio College
When: Today--University-open competition starts at 9:50 a.m.; invitational field events start at 10 a.m.; invitational track events begin at 1 p.m.