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Stokke leaves older, wiser

NEWPORT HARBOR FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:

TRACK AND FIELD: Dissatisfied with her senior season, Stokke vows to rebound at Cal, where she knows she can do better.

July 25, 2007|By Soraya Nadia McDonald

Allison Stokke never fancied herself as the sort of athlete who peaked just as she was beginning.

But, in a way, she did.

Newport Harbor High's Female Athlete of the Year won the most significant prize of her high school career, a CIF state title, as a freshman. She spent the next three years trying to reclaim that glory, but found herself falling short.

Despite a disappointing finish to her senior year — she finished fourth at this year's CIF state final — Stokke has emerged stronger than ever, and ready to start vaulting for UC Berkeley.

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Stokke set the national freshman pole vaulting record (12 feet, 8 inches) and won the CIF state title barely a year out of middle school, in a sport that she'd never tried before.

A burgeoning talent in her sport, Stokke had big dreams for her future.

She would get back to the CIF state final.

Eventually, she would clear 14 feet.

Projecting from the success of her freshman season, these were not unreasonable expectations.

Stokke's sophomore year looked just as promising as her first, and she tied another national record for her age group when she reached 13-4 in her first meet of the season. A week later, she broke it when she cleared 13-5 3/4 .

But just as the track and field postseason was about to begin, her early fortune took a different turn, and instead of continuing to move toward her ultimate goal, Stokke was hampered by injury. She broke her right tibia attempting a vault.

"My coaches were trying to make me feel better," Stokke said Tuesday, smiling. "They were like, 'I don't think it's broken,' and there's this thing floating around."

Stokke was waiting for her head to catch up with the ankle that now features a two-inch surgery scar, but that proved to be more difficult than she expected. The best vault of Stokke's junior year was 12-9 at the CIF state final, where she finished second to Tori Anthony of Castilleja in Palo Alto, who vaulted 13-3.

"I was expecting if I could get in shape, I could get back to where I was," Stokke said. "I physically was ready to jump high again, but mentally, it was hard to get back into it. When I first broke my ankle I was so ready to get back to it, and then I got used to being relaxed, and having nothing to do, and nowhere to be. It was hard to get myself motivated."

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