Ryan Chartrand

Sharon Day finally found what she was looking for – or more specifically, the height.

The Cal Poly senior cleared 6 feet, 4 _ inches in the women’s high jump Saturday at the Big West Conference Championships at Cal State Northridge’s Matador Track Complex, not only winning the event, but meeting the Olympic “A” standard, making her dreams of competing at the 2008 Summer Games more of a reality.

“Pure excitement,” Day said of her reaction to accomplishing the feat. “I couldn’t believe it happened, actually. There were a bunch of people up on the hill all jumping up and down and screaming.”

Many of them were likely teammates who’d also long awaited the moment.

“It was a huge, emotional jump for her,” said Mustangs jumps coach Jack Hoyt, who’s worked with Day for three years. “When she landed, she was wiping tears out of her eyes. For her to face that barrier and get over it was incredibly exciting. The whole team knew she was going for it and most were watching.”

In order to represent the United States in Beijing, Day will have to be among the top three jumpers at the Olympic trials, held June 27-July 6 in Eugene, Ore.

If a jumper who didn’t already achieve the standard within the past 18 months were to finish atop the trials by surpassing a height not up to the standard itself, lower jumpers to have already obtained the standard would supersede the winner for the Olympics.

“Getting the ‘A’ standard out of the way is a relief,” Hoyt said. “Some people will go to Oregon still needing it.”

Three other U.S. athletes have reached the standard in the relevant time span.

Day’s leap – tied for the best in the country and third in the world during that period – set school, conference, meet and stadium records.

“The conditions were right,” Day said. “It was hot, but I like it when it’s hot out; it’s easy to warm up and stay warm. I just kind of found my rhythm.”

Though Day had always tried to not look ahead, the height was one she always kept in her sights.

“It was something I thought about,” she said. “I just tried to visualize myself clearing that bar as often as possible. There’s a lot less stress now. A lot of weight was kind of lifted off my back. Now that I don’t have to worry about making the mark coming down to the wire and it’s out of the way, I can just go out and jump and compete.”

Day also won the heptathlon and long jump, and took third in the javelin throw at the championships, where the Cal Poly women took third, with 126 points, 63 behind the Matadors, who won their third consecutive title.

While pleased with Day’s performance, Hoyt worried it might have somewhat drained her.

“I wasn’t really expecting her legs to be that fresh,” he said. “But she got pushed quite a bit by the other two jumpers in the field. Maybe she didn’t worry that much about height and just got caught up in the moment of competition.”

Hoyt said after Day cleared her first attempt, at 5-8 _ by about eight inches, another coach turned to him and joked, “That just isn’t fair.”

She kept clearing about the same plateau every heightened attempt, Hoyt said, before her first miss, when she dove in with her head at the all-important 6-4 _.

On the next try, she employed a more vertical ascent.

“A lot of times we’ve gone for the mark, she leaned in on the takeoff and that led to her hitting (the bar) on the way up,” Hoyt said. “But then she did it and had a big celebration and the crowd went crazy.”

She missed just once on six total attempts.

Coming in second at the championships for the Cal Poly women in the shot put was Julieann Dufresne, at 46-10 _.

Day joined Champelle Brown, Amanda Thompson and Denise Gallion as part of a third-place 4 x 400 relay team clocking a 3:42.47.

Fourth-place Mustangs on the women’s side included Lauren Mulkey in the 1,500 (4:30.23), Jhana Samuels in the 400 hurdles (1:00.98) and Caitlin Schields in the triple jump (40-3 ¬).

The 4 x 100 unit of Erinne Benny, Ogonna Agu, Chadnei Payne and Jessica Eggleston took fifth in 47 seconds.

The Mustangs also finished third overall on the men’s side, with 116 points, trailing champion Long Beach State by 69.

Winning events on behalf of Cal Poly were Joe Gatel in the 1,500 meters (in 3:47.93) and Connor Landry in the pole vault (at 16-6 _).

Evan Anderson finished second for Cal Poly in both the 1,500 (in 3:48.03) and the 5,000 (in 14:57.89). Teammate Carl Dargitz also was a runner-up, completing the steeplechase in 9:06.48.

Third-place Cal Poly men included Chris Frazeur in the 400 hurdles (52.98), Kyle Inks in the pole vault (16-0 _) and the 4 x 400 quartet of Shane Cunningham, Frazeur, Tre’dale Tolver and Joe Cozby (3:12.06).

Among fourth-place Mustangs were Jeff Lease in the 1,500 (in 3:53.26) Jake Kelly-Strong in the 800 (1:52.68), Kevin Jones in the pole vault (15-7), Joey Hauser in the triple jump (48-11) and a 4 x 100 foursome of Nick Gancayco, Tolver, James Noble and Jarred Houston (41.17).

Houston was fifth in the 100 (at 10.72), as Alfred Hines Jr. was in the 110 hurdles (in 14.61).

West Regional competition will be held May 30-31, also at Cal State Northridge.

The national championships will take place June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Day said leading up to nationals she’ll begin to train more than in recent weeks.

“Now that we don’t have to worry about that (Olympic ‘A’ standard) height so much, it’s not about how many jumps she wants to take before going for the Olympic mark,” Hoyt said. “All she has to do now is just go in and compete at every meet.”

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