PROVIDENCE — He could have blamed fatigue from the basketball game the night before and the early-morning practice the next day.
He could have blamed the different footwear, a pair of spikes that were more than a full size smaller. He could have even blamed his lack of practice, which is none since last June.
While those reasons would certainly justify his unlikely performance at the RITCA Invitational Saturday afternoon at the Providence Career and Technical Academy field house, Central Falls senior Steven Vazquez didn't what to come up with any excuses after finishing second overall with a leap of six feet, a height that's 10 inches short of his career best.
“It's just not me,” said Vazquez. “I know what I need to do. I just need to get back into my jumping routine.”
Vazquez placed as a runner-up to Coventry's Larry Warwick, who won the event with a leap of 6-2. On his first attempts at 5-10 and 6-0, the C.F. standout cleared his heights with ease.
But Vazquez, the reigning outdoor champion, looked completely different when the bar was raised to 6-2.
Head coach Ernest Fennell felt it was a combination of things that affected his star jumper. Fennell, who is also the school's athletic director, attended the boys' basketball game on Friday night where Vazquez netted 14 points in a win over Scituate. He feels fatigue from the game played a part in his effort as well as lack of practice.
Vazquez's last time at the high jump pits was during the outdoor track season when he won the individual title at the states with a height of 6-8. He had his best of 6-10 at the Rick Schomp Invitational on May 7.
“He was way over (on his first two attempts),” said Fennell, about Vazquez's performance at Saturday's statewide meet. “He was confident in his steps. I asked him how he felt. He told me I still have to figure out how to jump. He hasn't practiced at all. He played a basketball game last night and he almost dunked like six or seven times so he was exerting a lot of energy. Not that that's an excuse, but he hasn't practiced at all and he also had basketball practice this morning. I took him right from basketball practice. They were there for at at least an hour and a half. They practice at nine. I got here at 10:45. We got on the bus and came here.”
With the early-morning rush of basketball practice and the meet, Vazquez also forget his jumping spikes at home. He cleared his first two heights with his training shoes and then used teammate Erik Mateo's spikes when he attempted 6-2.
His new footwear wasn't exactly beneficial.
“They were kind of small,” Vazquez said. “They were about a size and a half smaller. I thought they were going to be better, but they obviously weren't. It's alright. I am going to take it in and just work harder next time.”
After watching his first attempt at 6-2, Fennell contemplated about having Vazquez switch back into his training shoes.
“I saw him look down at the shoes, but I didn't want to take him out of his routine,” he said. “I figured I'd let him go.”
Fennell and Vazquez had no worries after Saturday's meet.
“I mean six feet. He's done 6-10,” said the C.F. coach. “He should have definitely done 6-5, 6-6. He has natural ability. But it's his first meet back and I am not too concerned.”
Vazquez believes he'll be able to match (or surpass) his best by season's end.
“Truly, I do,” he said. “I will. I will definitely do it.”
The area produced four individual champions in the six-plus hour meet.
Tolman junior Veronica Wiggins captured the girls' shot put with a heave of 35- ½, defeating Vicky Ebert of Exeter/West Greenwich by five inches. Cumberland's Kendra Plant placed fifth at 32-7 ½.
Woonsocket junior Kaylnn Pitts placed in two events, winning the high jump at 5-2 and taking third overall in the long jump with a distance of 17-1 ½.
Cumberland junior Trevor Crawley captured the 3,000-meter run with a state-best of 9 minutes, 4.2 seconds and Lincoln junior Aaron Roseman was a victor in the 55 dash with a school record of 6.4.
Also placing in the meet was Cumberland Ryan Rei with a fourth in the long jump at 20-9 ¾ and teammate Tom Fownes, who tied for fourth in the 1,000 with a time of 2:48.2. In the girls' 55 hurdles, Lincoln's Britt Redding was third with an 8.9 clocking. The Lady Lions also had a fourth in the 4x200 relay (1:52.0). Cumberland's Taylor Key was third in the high jump at 4-10.
In the boys' relays, Lincoln was fifth in the 4x800 (8:44.3) and East Providence took fifth in the 4x200 (1:37.4).