BEST BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS: HOPE, BUTLER AND SOS WIN STATE TITLES
The triple jump event in track and field is a technical, difficult combination of speed, dexterity and strength. To be good at it, you need equal parts of all three skills. Sprinting down the runway at full speed, the athlete leaps, bounds and then jumps into a pit of sand.
Alyssa Hope (Jr) has been doing that really well all season and on Saturday night in Clovis at the 102nd Annual California State Track and Field Championship, she did it better than all others and won her, and King’s first ever individual State title in track and field.
Alyssa became not only King’s first to win outright, but almost pulled off TWO individual titles. In the long jump, her second event of the weekend, Alyssa would finish in 2nd place. Runner up is a great accomplishment, but her season-long assault on the 20 year old school record in the Long Jump finally succeeded. Gayle Hunter’s 20’ 1/2" King High record had stood unchallenged for two decades but Hope finally took it down on Friday night in the preliminary rounds with a 20’ 3.75."
She fouled on her first attempt, “which scared me a little bit,” she said afterward. But the record fell on her second attempt. It was a full 7 1/2 inches better than her previous PR, an astounding improvement at already elite marks. “Everything was kind of a blur,” she recalled, as she left the pit thinking her jump had been “terrible.”
“So imagine my surprise when they said 20-3.75!”
The confidence gained would be needed in just 24 hours as she would be tested in the Finals on Saturday by Sydney Vanek of Clovis High. Vanek landed a 9 inch improvement of her own to win, while Hope essentially matched her feat of Friday with a quarter-inch improvement at 20’4". Second place stings a bit, but is still a great achievement, broke a 20 year old school record and set the stage for the Triple Jump.
There in the harder of the two events, Alyssa was unchallenged on Saturday, despite finishing second to Jada Gatlin of Mission Viejo in Friday’s preliminaries. The preliminary round takes the field down from 26 to 12 for Saturday’s Final, and it was in the prelims that Gatlin bested Alyssa by 7 inches. That was an advantage that likely seemed insurmountable going into the Final.
But when it counted on Saturday night in the Finals, Gatlin amazingly fouled on every attempt and recorded not one mark. Gatlin’s missteps opened a huge door for Alyssa to jump through. Hope would proceed to land 5 legal leaps beyond 40 feet; each one would have won the event on its own. Her best of 40’ 2.75" won the day.
On Sunday Alyssa reflected: “As my season comes to an end, I’m happy with what I accomplished. I couldn’t have done it without [jumps] Coach Byrd.”
Alyssa was not alone at the State meet, as five King athletes qualified for the rounds. On Friday, Isaiah Butler and Aidan Sos combined in the Unified Sports division of the shot put. While the division is in only its first season at the State level, the two throwers combined to beat 2 tandems from two other schools to win. “I’m really proud of them,” said King coach Mat Vasal. “They improved all year. On the last throw, Aidan needed a PR in order to win and he did!”
Sophomore Jaden McKee got his first taste of the State meet in the pole vault. While he did not have his best round (he capped out at 14’ 5") and did not move on to the Final on Saturday, he nonetheless gained valuable insight that will be useful in the coming two seasons where making State might be more of an assumption than a dream.
Sarah Ajayi had a solid preliminary round in the 100 hurdles, finishing just a fraction off her best ever mark in the event at 14.89. It finished her 13th overall of the 26 who qualified with the top 9 advancing to Saturday’s Final. Sarah is only a junior, so, like Jaden and Alyssa, her plans for the 2023 season have certainly elevated.
The CA State Meet is one of the most competitive high school track meets any state in the union puts out. It is rivaled only by Florida and Texas for its ability to annually put out incredible depth and talent in every event.
For King’s own Alyssa Hope, Aidan Sos and Isaiah Butler, they proved that they are leaps and bounds better than all contenders and arrived back in Riverside as King High’s first-ever State Champions.