Bulldog vaulters have another height to reach

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NEDERLAND — Nederland has dominated the pole vault in District 22-5A the past three years, even taking all three medals in the event in 2015 and 2016.

This year, the Bulldogs were first and second at districts and took first and third in last week’s Area 11-5A meet. There’s just one more level for Alec Torres and Kevon Latulas to reach, though: the state meet in Austin.

They are the strength of the team, their coach said.

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“The boys have done really well last few years,” Chris Theriot said. “We’re getting a lot of girls involved, now. They’ve done a lot better this year. Having a freshman win districts with Morgan Luke, it’s a credit to her coming out and working hard this year.”

Luke will join juniors Torres and Latulas in the 5A Region III meet, which begins Friday and concludes Saturday at Humble’s Turner Stadium. The top two finishers in each event will head to the University of Texas for the May 11-12 5A championships.

Torres, the two-time reigning district champion, came closest to making state last year, finishing third in Region III. But the success he and his teammates have enjoyed in the vault is a result of many years developing their craft.

“My seventh- and eighth-grade years, my coach always wanted us to pole vault,” Torres said. “That’s what we did every day for track during seventh and eighth grades.”

Latulas said he’s not surprised at the results Nederland has produced.

Torres jumped 14 feet, 6 inches, to win the area title, 2 inches shy of his Southeast Texas-leading vault, but a full foot ahead of runner-up Josh Cofresi of Barbers Hill. Latulas was third at 13-0 after vaulting 13-6 to take second at districts on his home course. Luke was fourth in areas at 8-6, going a foot higher than her district-winning height.

“They work hard,” Theriot said of his vaulters. “You’ve got to be different to be a pole vaulter, work that hard to get high and upside down on a pole. When you combine strength and speed, just like most sports, it’s a big asset.”

But to make it to state — let alone win the regional title — the vaulters will need to be at their best, Theriot added.

“It’s all about time and space,” Theriot said. “It don’t matter what you’ve done; it’s all about Saturday.”

Said Latulas: “I know we’re going to have a lot of competition. That don’t mean nothing. You still have to compete and go for it.”


Back in regionals

Gabrielle Gutierrez made the Region III meet as a freshman in the high jump and as a sophomore in the triple jump.

After missing regionals last year, she’s going in the 100-meter hurdles and in the long jump.

“You just get a good jump every once in a while, and it just happened to be this year,” the Nederland senior said, asked about coming back from missing last year’s regionals.

Gutierrez won the 100 hurdles at the district meet this year and was second in the area meet, but she’s seen a significant improvement in the long jump. After going 15 feet, 11.5 at districts to just qualify for areas, she leapt 17-1 at Barbers Hill to take third place.

“I just lengthened my steps and it made me go faster down the runway and just got a really good jump out on my first one,” Gutierrez said.

Jacie Droddy of Port Neches-Groves is the district and area long jump champion. Droddy went 17-9 at districts.

She topped her district-winning time of 15.92 seconds in the 100 hurdles at areas and turned in a 15.32. She also qualified for areas in the 300 hurdles, where she got third, but did not make regionals in that event.

“She’s definitely the heart and soul of the team,” Nederland girls coach Allie Crommett said. “She’s done everything we’ve asked her this year. She didn’t really want to run the 300 hurdles this year, but she stepped up and went from qualifying fifth to finishing in third.

“I couldn’t ask for a better leader on our team, especially with such a young leader. She’s awesome.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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