Newport Harbor High senior Mark Sakioka is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.

Newport Harbor High senior Mark Sakioka is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week. (Kent Treptow / Daily Pilot)

Mark Sakioka was 8 years old when his parents bought a trampoline for the backyard. The family had just remodeled the house and decided to get the jumping device for three children.

Sakioka took it to new heights.

Next to the trampoline was a portable basketball unit, and like any kid, Sakioka put the two to use. Sakioka and a friend decided to do back flips off the rim and toward the trampoline, where they could launch themselves and flip.

The flipping around continued for five years until Stephanie Sakioka came out and saw what her son and his friend were up to one day in the backyard.

"You guys are going to die!" Stephanie said to the two boys.

Just like that, the trampoline was gone before Sakioka entered high school.

He soon found his jumping frills at Newport Harbor High. Basketball did not do it for Sakioka as a freshman.

Running full speed toward a metal bar with a pole in his hands fulfilled Sakioka's need to go airborne. Sakioka has taken off ever since, becoming one of the top track and field pole vaulters in the state.

Credit goes to Sakioka, his coach Fritz Howser, and that device with the coiled springs Sakioka's parents bought 10 years ago.

"The trampoline definitely helped my pole vaulting, just with body control in the air," said Sakioka, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week.

Not many pole vaulters are talented as Sakioka when he bends that pole and launches himself above the bar. He ranks seventh in the state with a Newport Harbor outdoor record of 15 feet, nine inches.

There is only one other athlete in Orange County with a better mark this year. Sakioka faced him last week at the Orange County Championships.

Sakioka and Adam Bragg of El Toro have trained together since their freshmen year. In their final year of high school, they have battled each other for the top spot at three invitational meets.

Sakioka got the better of Bragg at the Trabuco Hills Invitational and San Clemente Invitational. At the OC Championships, the two were dead even.

Then both said no more after they were unable to clear a height they leaped over earlier in the competition. The heat at Mission Viejo High got to Sakioka and Bragg and they finished tied for first place.

"We jumped I think they counted 17 times," Sakioka said. "We jumped 15-9 and then we both made it, so then the bar went to 16-3. By that time, we were so out of gas. We jumped once at 16-3 [and missed], and then they lowered it to 16, and then we both missed both of those, even at 15-9 we missed those.

"His coach and Fritz are good friends, and they kind of came over and said, 'Look. We don't want you guys to get hurt. What do you think you guys can do?'"

The competitive nature got the best of Sakioka and Bragg, as they gave it another shot.

"When the bar is at 15-9, and that's an easy make for both of us, it was obvious that this wasn't going to go well," Sakioka said.

Sakioka and Bragg each came away with first for the first time at the OC Championships. This was their year to finish No. 1 after Mike Woepse graduated from Mater Dei and is now at UCLA.