WALNUT – Once confined to local lore, South Pasadena High junior Claire Kieffer-Wright elevated herself into another stratum at Saturday’s 66th edition of the Mt. San Antonio College Relays.
The defending state champion high jumper hit rarified air in breaking the Mt. SAC high school record with a leap of 6 feet on her final attempt at that height.
In the process of setting a new personal best and school record, Kieffer-Wright knocked off five-time U.S. Olympian Amy Acuff, who set the Mt. SAC record in 1984 with a mark of 5-10.
“I want to thank my mom and my coaches and my teammates for all coming to support me. It’s so incredible what happened here, to see me accomplish such a great feat,” Kieffer-Wright said. “To break a meet record that’s stood for 29 years – 5-10 – that’s just amazing.”
Kieffer-Wright had attempted to reach six feet since midway through the Rio Hondo League track season last year and came close at last season’s CIF State Track and Field Championships in Clovis.
On Saturday, Kieffer-Wright followed a familiar script after clearing the opening height of 5-4.
Kieffer-Wright missed the first attempt of 5-6, 5-8, 5-10, only to turn around and hit the second try.
Yet, the pattern was broken as Kieffer-Wright faulted on her first two attempts at 6 feet.
Perhaps the big difference for Kieffer-Wright on Saturday in comparison to other tries at 6 feet is that the junior had competition from Bishop Gorman’s Vashti Cunningham, daughter of famed former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham.
While Vashti Cunningham faulted in her third and final try at 6 feet, Kieffer-Wright flew instead, breaking through the 6-foot barrier with South Pasadena assistant coaches Eugene Hutchinson and C.B. Richards high-fiving toward the side.
“She works really hard, shows up to practice every day and she expects the best from herself,” said Hutchinson, the South Pasadena jumps coach. “She set a standard for herself and it’s nice to see when someone sets a standard for themselves, that they make it.”
In hitting six feet, Kieffer-Wright also picked up the senior women’s qualifying “B” standard, which was six feet, for the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, IA.
Kieffer-Wright did attempt three ties at 6-2, but was unsuccessful.
Prior to Kieffer-Wright’s triumph, most of the local efforts revolved around times rather than finishes.
With her name screaming down from the press box, South Pasadena senior Laura Anuakpado took a brief lead in the invitational 400-meter dash, jumping passed Serra’s Chimere Ezumah and Rancho Cordova Cordova’s Nia Dorner.
However, the lead didn’t last as Dorner closed with a strong kick over the final 50 meters in taking the victory in 54.37, just ahead of runner-up Anuakpado (55.33) and Ezumah (55.34).
“I just ran,” said an exhausted Anuakpado, who set a new personal record. “I just didn’t want to get a medal; I wanted to get [a personal best].”
Anuakpado had a busy day, taking in part in five overall events, including helping the South Pasadena girls' 400-meter relay team finish second in its heat & 10th overall in the seeded event in 48.26.
The crew began with freshman Rebecca Liston, and continued to Jazmin Jackmon, Kamia Rodil Willis and closed with Anuakpado, who moved her squad up from third when she received the baton.
One of the day’s more surprising and gritty efforts came from South Pasadena senior Paul Messana, who battled Las Vegas Centennial’s Jackson Carter during the final lap of the 800-meter seeded run.
Messana took a lead at 500 meters only to surrender it at 600, fall into third at 650 meters and then rally back for second in 1:55.09, not far off Carter’s pace of 1:54.62.
“I just pushed. I wanted to go out as fast as I could,” said Messana, who missed the school record of 1:54.9. “I was going for that school record and I got close.”
The event was one of three for Messana, who teamed with Andrew Schultz, Sam Anuakpado and Justin Fernandez to take fourth in the 1, 600-meter sprint medley in 3:41.21.
While Mayfield Senior’s participation was limited, the Cubs finished fourth in a 21-team girls’ 4x1,600-meter relay field in a time of 22:37.60.
Mayfield’s quartet of Katherine Tighe, Sophie Fortner, Marisa Sanchez and Alyssa Rivas outlasted crosstown La Salle’s fifth-place foursome of Bettina Lee, Abigail Marich, Jane Zanteson (who filled in for senior Tracy Cuesta) and Marilyn Crowley, who finished in a new school-record time of 23:03.51.
The Cubs foursome of Jamilla Monegain, Harley Barrera, Mary Najarian and Christina Cordano also finished sixth in the seeded 1,600-meter sprint medley in 4:22.14.
Pasadena’s girls’ 400-meter relay team delivered the area’s final bronze medal effort in taking both third in their heat and third overall with a time of 50.08.
The Bulldogs’ squad consisted of Camara Blount, Jasmine Truly, Keegan Snowden and Racheal Richardson.
“We might be a small school, but we’re still going to do our best,” Blount said.
Maranatha senior Kyle Brown took seventh in the 400-meter dash in 51.33, slightly behind his Arcadia Invitational winning time of 49.38.
Pasadena resident Cameron Akins of Los Angeles Cathedral won the seeded 110-meter hurdles in 14.31, while South Pasadena’s Jazmin Jackmon earned 10th in the seeded long jump (16-7) and La Salle sophomore Dionna Williams took 10th in the open high jump (4-10).