Kozaki Caps Her MIL Career With Record-Breaking, 13-foot Vault
By Rodney S. Yap
It was Maui’s last chance to witness Amber Kozaki soar to unspeakable heights. And she did . . . over and over . . . and over.
With a couple dozen family members and close friends in attendance, the Baldwin High School pole vaulter obliterated the Maui Interscholastic League Track and Field Championship meet record of 11 feet, 7 inches en route to the first ever 13-foot vault in Hawaii history.
“It feels good,” said Kozaki, Friday, April 26, after winning the girls pole vault at the Satoki Yamamoto Track & Field Facility. “I feel accomplished. I reached my goal from my sophomore and junior year so I’m very happy.”
Second place went to St. Anthony’s Taylor Tavares (9-0), followed by King Kekaulike’s Itara Sved-Wood (8-6) and Kaysea Hashizaki (8-6).
The boys high jump, the only other event final at the MIL Championship Track & Field Trials, was won by Maui High’s Vincent Keomoungkoune at 6-2. Kamehameha Maui’s Davis Neizman was second at 6-0.
The trials were highlighted by three meet records. In addition, to Kozaki’s 13 feet in the vault, Maui High’s Christina Lotulelei broke the record in the girls discus with a throw of 137-7, and King Kekaulike’s Jansen Agapay broke the boys long jump record with a distance of 23 feet, 3.25 inches.
The finals of the MIL Track and Field Championships are set for today, April 27, beginning at 4 p.m.
Kozaki’s record-breaking tour of the pole vault ended Friday with the highest jump in the history of the event and elevated the Baldwin senior, who no-heighted in the same meet a year ago, to a 12th-place tie nationally.
“Even though it was the trials the crowd really got into it, there were some loud roars for her,” said Kozaki’s pole vault coach Linden Wada.
Although spectators in the entire stadium have cheered Kozaki all year, the ones who sit directly behind Wada, who video tapes Amber from row eight, are generally the loudest.
“That helped me a lot. I love my supporters and I’m so thankful for them, my family and my friends,” said Kozaki.
“I just wanted to clear 13 feet, 13 was on my mind all night. It feels good, hopefully it (the record) will stay there for a while.”
Kozaki’s previous best was 12-7. She entered the league championships after a record-breaking performance at Punahou Relays last weekend that led Coach Wada to say: “I think she can jump in the high 13s.”
She was easily more than a foot above the crossbar on all her jumps under 13 feet.
“Her first two jumps at 13-3 was with the same pole she cleared 13 feet with,” said Wada. “But on her third try she was on a bigger pole, a 14-foot, 140-pound pole.”
“I wished I had used it on my second attempt at 13-3,” Kozaki later said.
Wada added: “It’s all about the speed. If she’s running fast I’ll put her on that pole . . . and today she was flying, she was really running fast.”
So fast, in fact, she leads all qualifiers in the girls 100-meter dash at 12.69 seconds. Seabury Hall’s Alyssa Bettendorf, still fighting off flu-like symptoms from last week, is next at 12.74.
Kozaki ran the 100 and minutes later cleared 13 feet.
“I don’t know if it helped me, but I was tired afterwards,” she said. “I haven’t run the 100 in like a month, I guess it kind of helped me just to stay warm and stuff.”
Kozaki also leads the girls long jump at 17-3.75, a distance she established on her one and only attempt.
“I wanted to do my last two attempts, because I always do well at trials in my long jump,” Kozaki explained. “I was hoping to maybe jump 18 because of the wind tonight, but then I decided to just concentrate on pole vault. I felt like I did have an 18-foot jump in me, because on my jump at 17-3, I wasn’t even on the board.”
The next time Kozaki vaults will be at the Island Movers State Track and Field Championship, May 10-11, at Mililani High School.