Jerrica Hauck has the hair for the dramatic.
And the colorful mismatched socks to go with the red-dyed ’do.
“Pole vaulters are prone to be weird, wacky and random,” said the spunky East Union High junior, whose meteoric rise as a pole vaulter followed an impulsive decision to give the event a try during practice as a freshman.
Training to be a long jumper at the time, she was instructed to run six 150-meter intervals sprints.
“I didn’t feel like running six 150s that day, and the pole vaulters were watching a pole vault video,” Hauck said. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to be a pole vaulter today.’”
Now she’s East Union’s pole vault record holder, a two-time champion of the Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV/V meet, and the Bulletin’s 2011 All-Area Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“The day I chose to be lazy I picked one of the hardest events to do,” Hauck said. “I’m really glad I did. It pays off to be lazy, I guess.”
The pole vault turned out to be the perfect fit for the former gymnast, swimmer and competitive cheerleader.
This past season, she set a new personal record on five occasions and thrice broke the school record, which now stands at 11 feet, 1 inch. That mark was established during the SJS divisional meet at Modesto Junior College.
Hauck has a knack for clearing heights, for personal records or just to stay alive in a meet, on her final attempt.
At divisionals, she decided to give it a shot at 11-6 after securing the first-place medal and new personal best mark. Her two goals for the year were to break the 12-foot barrier and qualify for the state meet, and she had the feeling she could achieve the former at MJC on that day.
On her final two tries she got the crowd involved by starting a rhythmic clap before each run.
“I was pumped up because I’d be able to start the slow clap,” Hauck said. “I used it off and on during the season, but that’s the place I really wanted to use it because the finish line is right there and everybody was watching.
“I almost had it.”
As successful as her season was, she never got to reach her ultimate goals.
Hauck’s season ended at Sacramento City College, the site of the SJS Masters Meet and the last stop before the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships. She needed a top-three finish or a vault of 11-9 — the at-large standard set for competitors to advance to the state meet.
Hauck fell short of both, finishing in a three-way tie for sixth place at 10-9. But it’s a huge improvement from her 2010 appearance at Masters, where she was 12th at 9-3.
“It was pretty good because (the 10-9 vault) it’s right around where I was for most of the year, and my placement was higher than last year,” Hauck said. “I was pretty content with it, but while I was packing up before making my way back up to the bleachers it hit me that this was my last meet of the season and I hadn’t gotten my 12 footer yet.”
That, along with a berth to state, should again be within reach next year.
She kept busy during the offseason last year while competing for the Lodi Track Club, qualifying for the Junior Olympics, attending a clinic held by 1968 and ’72 Olympian Bob Slover in Los Gatos and further expanding her game at the annual National Pole Vault Summit in Reno over the winter.
Hauck will follow a similar path this offseason but says she’ll do “less pole vaulting and more conditioning and strength training” in preparation for her senior campaign.
“It was exciting to be able to hit these higher heights (consistently) compared to the year before when I was at 7 feet,” Hauck said. “Now I’m qualifying for these big events, like Stanford and Arcadia (invitationals).
“I’m finally up there with the big dogs. I’m in the middle of the pack, but I’m still there. Next year I want to come back to these big meets and actually win.
“I think I can go really far as a senior. I’m working hard to get a scholarship for college and hopefully go far there.”
Go far and go high — a far cry from where she started as a lazy freshman long jumper.