Kozaki clears 13 feet

WAILUKU – After shattering records throughout the Maui Interscholastic League track and field season, Baldwin High School’s Amber Kozaki saved her best for last.

The senior pole vaulter cleared 13 feet Friday at the MIL championships at Yamamoto Track & Field Facility, 6 inches better than the state-meet mark.

“It was my goal from my sophomore year,” Kozaki said. “This year, my coach and I said, ‘We have to get 13, we have to get it.’

“He thinks I can jump 13-7, but we’ll see about that.”

Friday’s competition consisted of two finals – Maui High School’s Vincent Keomoungkhoune won the boys high jump – and trials for other events. The meet concludes today.

Kozaki qualified first in two other events, with a time of 12.69 in the 100 meters and a long jump of 17-3 3/4.

“I was getting tired,” she said with a smile. “But I needed to get as many points for the team as I can.”

Kozaki’s previous best in the pole vault was 12-7, at the Victorino Ohana Invitational earlier this month. She was third at last year’s state championship in both the pole vault and long jump.

Friday’s vault also puts Kozaki in a tie for 12th in the national rankings, according to milesplit.com.

“I’m definitely hoping to do it at states because that’s when it really matters,” she said – the state meet is next weekend at Mililani.

Kozaki credits former teammate and current Washington State vaulter Kristine Felix for motivating her over the years. Felix owns the state-meet mark, clearing 12-6 in 2010, and owns three state gold medals.

“I’m glad that this year I can push myself even without her, because it was my drive to be better than her,” Kozaki said. “So this year was kind of different and I was kind of scared at the beginning.

“But now I know that I can push myself even without her.”

Keomoungkhoune cleared 6-2.

“I was pretty nervous,” he said. “I hadn’t jumped that high at a meet in a while.”

King Kekaulike’s Jansen Agapay set the meet record in the long jump with a mark of 23-3 1/4.

* Chris Sugidono is at csugidono@mauinews.com.