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Sakioka reaching new heights

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.

Sakioka might team up with Woepse in college. Sakioka said he is leaning toward pole vaulting for the UCLA men's track and field program.

Next week, Sakioka said, he will make a decision between UCLA and USC. Before he is off to college, Sakioka has some goals.

He has already set Newport Harbor's outdoor and indoor records. At the National Pole Vault Summit in January in Reno, Nev., Sakioka cleared 16 feet on his first try.

Sixteen feet is not high enough. He wants 17 feet.

There is time to raise the bar. The Sunset League finals, the CIF Southern Section prelims and finals, the CIF Southern Section Masters meet, and the CIF State finals are left.

Sakioka has never been to state. Heck, he never thought he would be jumping with a pole in high school and having so much fun.

Pole vaulting has sure replaced that trampoline in the backyard.

*

Mark Sakioka

Hometown: Newport Beach

Born: March 8, 1993

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 155 pounds

Sport: Track and field

Event: Pole vault

Coach: Fritz Howser

Favorite movie: "White Chicks"

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite athletic moment: "Going 16 feet and breaking the [Newport Harbor indoor] school record in late January at the National Pole Vault Summit [in Reno, Nev.]."

Week in review: Sakioka tied for first place in the pole vault with a Newport Harbor record leap of 15 feet, nine inches at the Orange County Championships at Mission Viejo High.

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