Turlock High's Ian Strode took fifth in the pole vault at the 2022 CIF State Track and Field Championships in Clovis, Calif. (Photo courtesy Scott Durham)

Standing tall: Turlock pole vaulter makes school history with fifth-place medal at state meet

Ron Agostini

Turlock High graduate Ian Strode checks in at 5-foot-9 and135 pounds, one of the shortest pole vault finalists last weekend at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

Check that.

“I WAS the shortest finalist,” said Strode, whose heart must be as big as his physique.

Strode cleared 4.80 meters (15 feet, 9 inches) and placed fifth and is believed to be the first Turlock vaulter to medal at the state meet. To him, stepping onto the podium and claiming a medal was worth skipping graduation.

“Was the best choice by far,” he said.

The process, by design, was not easy at Buchanan High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis, the traditional home of the state meet (the first held since 2019). Qualifiers were whittled down to a final 12 in Friday’s preliminaries, and it was touch-and-go for Strode.

Strode missed twice at 14-11 and had to clear on the third to advance. After a few clutch adjustments, he flew over the bar.

He was better than solid in Saturday night’s finals. After passing on the opening height, he topped 15-1 on his second try, and hit both 15-5 and 15-9 on his first attempts. That earned him the medal. He bowed out after three decent attempts at 16-1. Hunter O’Brien of Eleanor Roosevelt (Southern Section) won at 16-5.

“My goal was to make it to finals and to place,” Strode said. “I was very happy with it.”

Strode gradually improved over the years at Turlock. Last year, he picked up a sixth at an invitational in Arcadia, billed as an unofficial state meet.

His senior year featured an epic performance at the Central California Athletic League Championships hosted by Turlock. With teammates, friends and even opponents cheering him on, he cleared 16-1.

“You have to be focused on what your body can do on the day (of competition), as well as the weather conditions,” Strode said. “A lot of pole vaulters have issues with the stress, and then they can’t perform.”

Turlock coach Bergann Hernandez, one of the first female vaulters in school history, points to Strode’s poise under pressure.

“Ian comes alive when the stress is on him,” Hernandez said. “He has an ability to relax and let himself jump and not overdo everything.”

A perfect example was the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships. It was a nightmare for vaulters who flailed out of control in 25-mph gusts at Davis High.

Strode inspected the horrible conditions and somehow cleared 14-11, joining 6-4 sophomore teammate Max McFarlane as state qualifiers.

“I like to stay calm and joke with the guys,” said Strode, who will continue his vault career at Cal Poly Pomona.  “If you’re out there stressing, you’re not going to do your best.”

Strode’s performance was the best of the state qualifiers from the frontrowpreps.com’s coverage area.

Weston Ranch junior Galadriel Mellion, who bounced back from corrective surgery on both knees over the previous year, earned a sixth-place medal in the shot put (41-0 ½) and just missed the podium in seventh in the discus (a season-best 138-4). Mellion won both the discus and the shot at Masters.

Ripon High graduate Anthony Sausedo, whose next stop is Stanford, opted for the state meet over being valedictorian at commencement. He traveled to Clovis – after delivering his address to fellow seniors at rehearsal – qualified for the finals at placed seventh (38.67 seconds). He was a Masters champion.

Hughson junior Joseph Lighthall, another Mastes chamion who made the finals field in the 800 meters, finished seventh (1:55.28).  Golden Valley graduate Jazmine Severo was eighth in the high jump (5-4).

Enochs graduate Steve Mai got to the finals in the discus and finished 10th (155-28). His teammate Abayomi Babaloa was 12th in the shot put (50-11). Babaloa won both events at Masters.

Sierra graduate Jeontay Berry advanced to the finals in the long jump and finished 11th (21-9 1/2).

Ian Strode is believed to be the first Turlock High pole vaulter to reach the medal stand at the state track and field meet. (Photo courtesy Scott Durham).