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Maneatis makes quick ascent

Freshman fights through tough conditions to vault into state championships
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The winds were whipping last week at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track and Field Championships and pole vaulters cringed as they walked toward the pit at Elk Grove High. It didn?t look good for a light-as-a-feather freshman competing in the biggest competition of her life. Melissa Maneatis didn?t seem to mind. The Del Oro ninth grader fought through the breeze, the nervousness and the stiff competition to match a mark set by one of her heroes four years ago. Maneatis placed second at Masters to secure a berth to Friday?s CIF State Championships. She cleared 11 feet, 5 inches and joined Mackenzi Landry as Del Oro freshmen to make it to the state meet in the pole vault. ?I?ve always looked up to her,? Maneatis said of Landry, who is now competing at Cal. ?I want to be as good as her, eventually.? Maneatis (pronounced mann-y-ah-tis) got a nice head start in her pole vaulting career thanks to a friendly neighbor. Curt Roth, the father of three-time NCAA champion vaulter Scott Roth, lives across the street from the Maneatis family in Granite Bay. He talked Melissa and her sister Jennifer into giving the pole vault a try and they?ve spent countless hours in Roth?s backyard training over the past several years. ?It?s convenient ? it?s right across the street,? Maneatis said. ?Pole vaulting is awesome. Not a lot of people do it and it?s not like other sports. It?s different. It?s really a challenge, but I enjoy it.? Maneatis began to peak earlier this month, clearing a career-best 11-8 to win the SJS Division II-III championship. Her sister struggled with the tough conditions at Masters and will turn her attention to powder puff football this weekend while Melissa is taking on the top vaulters in the state, including Placer junior Shelby Crider, who was third at Masters. Del Oro track and field coach Dustin Fee said he wasn?t surprised to see Maneatis come up big at Masters. ?She?s been improving constantly and she?s ahead of schedule,? Fee said. ?Talking to her coach, they have plans for years out. She?s a very young girl with a very big dream. She?s following a guideline and she?s hit every goal.? Maneatis said she doesn?t have a specific goal in mind for the state championships, but she is jumping on bigger poles and hopes to contend, at least for a spot in Saturday?s final. Ultimately, she has her sights set on Landry?s school record of 13-1. It?s a lofty goal for the fragile-looking freshman. But Fee said her slender frame is deceiving. ?The girl?s actually got phenomenal core strength and that?s what the event comes down to,? the coach said. ?She?s got decent size for what she needs to be doing and it?s easy for her to get up in the air. She appears to be tiny, but she?s really strong ? like a piano string.? Maneatis got a taste of big-meet competition last summer when she placed third at the Junior Olympics in Kansas. But the CIF State meet will be a major step up in competition as the top 27 vaulters from all over the Golden State vie for the title. Maneatis will enjoy plenty of company as Del Oro teammates Brie Simmons, Amy Heyn, Dominique Tristant, Sydney Proiette and Kristen Schumacher will all join her at state. ?I?m really excited to go with my friends, my teammates,? Maneatis said. ?It?s going to be awesome.?