SOQUEL >> Eventually, Nicole Trenchard just let herself go.
“It felt effortless, just that one jump, that I was along for the ride,” the Pacific Collegiate School pole vaulter recalled.
The crossbar, positioned 12 feet, 5½ inches above the ground — higher than any Santa Cruz County girl had ever flown before — remained unshaken in its standards on the edge of the Soquel High track. Three meets into this season, Trenchard had snapped the record of 12-4 set by Aptos’ Kirsten Loftin when she placed fourth at the state meet in 2003.
“It was the best feeling, like, that actually happened,” said Trenchard, who achieved the feat at the Garlic Classic in late March. “I was coming down and just grinning. I was so overjoyed. I landed in the pit, opened my eyes and it was still there.
“My next thought was, ‘I want to do it again.'”
As a junior, there’s a lot riding on Trenchard’s ability to replicate that leap. There are college coaches and scouts to impress, expectations to live up to and titles to win. Yet, even as she enters Saturday’s Central Coast Section Track and Field Semifinals knowing that a similar jump would not just qualify her to next weekend’s finals but could also deliver her a shot of confidence toward earning her first CCS title (she’s ranked No. 2 in the section behind Los Gatos senior Greta Wagner), she’s not stressing about it.
Freaking out, as Trenchard found out during a devastating CCS finals last May when she missed the state cut by a mere inch, won’t get her off the ground. So, she’s working on letting go.
“Last year, I wasn’t as conditioned as I wanted to be, so I felt unprepared. This year, I’m not prepared either, but that’s OK,” she said. “It’s about relaxation and execution. You can’t expect it, that way it’s always surprising. Last year, I was so hungry to PR, I wouldn’t have been surprised (if I did). This year, it’s about having fun and not trying too hard — and I’m surprised all the time.”
Joe Miyoshi, an area legend in the sport who has been coaching pole vault for 42 years, has spent the last four with Trenchard and, among others, PCS teammate Erika Malaspina — the only other county girl currently competing to have cleared 12 feet.
Miyoshi said turning off the brain, as Trenchard is learning to do, is harder for the type of athlete drawn to the pole vault. They’re the kind of kids who eagerly show up to his practices to work for four or five hours at a time, two to three days a week, to perfect their form.
“They have to be a workaholic. They have to be. You can’t create them,” Miyoshi said. “In the wine industry, they would say they’re corked too tight, but that’s what we want. Not a type-A personality, but AAA, because it’s off the charts.”
The seed of Trenchard’s new strategy took root in the early spring of 2013. During a CCS girls soccer playoff game against Harbor, Trenchard, the Pumas’ goalkeeper, took a kick to the head. She had to sit out the first couple weeks of track season with concussion-like symptoms. Yet, in her first meet back, still admittedly a bit woozy, she cleared the prestigious 12-foot bar for the first time.
For the rest of the spring, and even much of the summer and fall, she chased that mark. Each time she fell short, she became increasingly frustrated. She hit her low point in October when, after driving more than five hours to compete in an offseason meet in the San Fernando Valley, she couldn’t even get over the opening bar.
She realized she needed to make a change, a prospect she found more frightening than using a fiberglass pole to launch herself higher than a single-story house.
“The scary part is not actually jumping. The scary part is you have to change,” she said.
“But the scariest thing is to go lower,” she added. “If you change what you’re doing, you risk a bad day, but that’s a chance you have to take. It’s trial and error. Sometimes you have to try five things before one thing works.”
What has worked for Trenchard is to tune out the expectations — her own and those of prospective college coaches. Making that more difficult are her desire to eventually coach pole vaulting and that she’s given up soccer (she called the concussion a “wake-up call”) and put all her eggs into her basket drop. But it’s working out and in more places than on the pole vault runway. Trenchard also holds records for the relatively small and young PCS girls track program in the 100-meter dash (13.08 seconds), 200 (26.54), 4×100 relay (51.2) and discus (83-9).
To qualify for state in the pole vault, Trenchard next weekend needs only clear the at-large height of 11-7 — nearly a foot below her best, which she cleared a second time on April 5 to win the elite Stanford Invitational. Still, she’d like to take the opportunity to go even bigger. If she can elevate her PR to 12-9 1/2, she’ll qualify for junior nationals and the junior world championships.
“That’s our next goal, but we want to sneak up on it,” Miyoshi said.
She’ll need to go nearly a foot higher than that to best the top mark in the state this season, 13-9 set by Santa Margarita’s Kaitlyn Merritt. If Trenchard gets close, she’ll be over the moon — almost literally. If not, she knows what she’ll have to do:
Let it go.
IF YOU GO
CCS Track and Field Semifinals
When: Saturday, field and running events at 2 p.m.
Where: San Jose City College, 2100 Moorepark Ave., San Jose
Cost: $8 adults, $4 seniors/students/children
On the net: cifccs.org
4×100: Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley
1,600: Anna Maxwell, SLV; Matti Peoples, Aptos; Abby Sherman, SLV; Clare Peabody, Aptos
100 hurdles: Christan Goetzl, Soquel; Sabrine Griffith, Santa Cruz
400: Mikaela Inman, Scotts Valley; Hayley Herberg, Scotts Valley
100: Emma O’Regan, Santa Cruz; Christan Goetzl, Soquel
800: Anna Maxwell, SLV; Lizette Garcia, Watsonville; Emily Antonino, PCS; Amelia Jackson, Santa Cruz
300 hurdles: Jessica Dominguez, Watsonville; Christan Goetzl, Soquel; Fabiola Abonce, Watsonville; Nora Griffith, Santa Cruz
200: Hayley Herberg, Scotts Valley; Emma O’Regan, Santa Cruz
3,200: Valerie Morrison, Scotts Valley; Cate Ratliff, Santa Cruz; Yulisa Abundis, Aptos; Abbey Meck, SLV; Annika McBride, Aptos; Olivia Quinn, Aptos
4×400: Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley
Pole vault: Nicole Trenchard, PCS; Anastasia Kubricki, Santa Cruz; Katherine Whiting, Santa Cruz; Erika Malaspina, PCS
Discus: Angela Chmelicek, Aptos; Malena Cueva, Watsonville; Ashley Doherty, Aptos
Long jump: Nora Griffith, Santa Cruz; Sabrine Griffith, Santa Cruz
High jump: Selena Friedman, Santa Cruz; Lexi Stevens, Scotts Valley; Summer-Solstice Thomas, Santa Cruz; Katherine Stewart, Scotts Valley; Cassie Ackemann, SLV; Julie Zweng, Scotts Valley; Natalie Diaz, Soquel; Bella Dufek, Aptos
Shot put: Madi Volk, Scotts Valley; Ashley Doherty, Aptos
Triple jump: Lola Strbac, Scotts Valley; Lexi Stevens, Scotts Valley
4×100: Aptos, Santa Cruz
1,600: Jack Rose, Aptos; John Ross, Scotts Valley; Zachary Davis, Pajaro Valley
110 hurdles: Ashtyn Davis, Santa Cruz; Boston Breuner, PCS; Dion Shattuck, Santa Cruz
400: Jacob Cervantes, Watsonville; Cody Giguiere, Scotts Valley; Triton Pelstring, Santa Cruz
100: Alex Azevedo, Watsonville; Dale Stoller, Santa Cruz; Alex Morris, Santa Cruz
800: Jacob Hicks, SLV; Alex Condotti, PCS; Anthony Ramirez, Watsonville; Draven Hawk, Scotts Valley
300 hurdles: Ashtyn Davis, Santa Cruz; Boston Breuner, PCS; Zachary Fisher, Aptos
200: Cody Giguiere, Scotts Valley; Alex Morris, Santa Cruz; Alex Azevedo, Watsonville
3,200: Nick Heath, Scotts Valley; Luc Bouchard, PCS; Luke McCartney, Scotts Valley
4×400: Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz
Triple jump: Brandon Pierce, Aptos; Kasem Green, Watsonville; Miles Keys-McKay, Santa Cruz
Shot put: Tylan Seeger, Soquel; Daniel Rangel, Watsonville; Dominic Rodriguez, Aptos
Pole vault: Zehr Blanco, Aptos; Dion Shattuck, Santa Cruz
High jump: Patrick Hurley, Aptos; Dion Shattuck, Santa Cruz; Raymond Silver, Watsonville
Discus: Hunter Gowder, Santa Cruz; Dominic Rodriguez, Aptos; Dustin Samms, MVC
Long jump: Brandon Pierce, Aptos; Dion Shattuck, Santa Cruz
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