Track & Field: Bertucci sets sights on NCAA meet

Few athletes ever achieve All-America status in their sport, and in track and field, even fewer athletes can claim membership in the high jump's magical 7-foot club.

This weekend, Ryan Bertucci will take a shot at both of those goals when he jumps at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in San Angelo, Texas.

Bertucci, a 2006 Douglas High graduate and now a junior at California State University, Chico, is coming off a 6-foot, 10-3/4-inch clearance for his best performance of the season as he prepares to compete in the nationals for the second straight year.

"Top eight is the goal. That would be All-American, and it's very reachable," said Bertucci. "And hopefully, 7 feet. Not many do it, that's why I'm really pushing for it."

Bertucci is scheduled to jump late this afternoon at Angelo State University's Legrand Sports Complex. As an added bonus, parents Lee and Cheryl Bertucci and the rest of their family will make the trip from Gardnerville to watch the meet.

Bertucci tied his lifetime best last Saturday to win at Sacramento State's Hornet Invitational, a jump that secured his trip to nationals. Just as encouraging were the two good attempts he had at 7-feet, 1/2-inch.

"I was pretty close, especially my second attempt. I just caught it with my heel," the 6-1, 150-pound Bertucci said. "I think I'm finally getting my rhythm down. I've been working on my approach, trying to get more speed and more energy going into the jump.

"I've hit the weights and done more conditioning this year, and it's all starting to come together now."

His first clearance at 6-10-3/4 (2.10 meters) -- which ranks eighth on Chico State's all-time list -- came last year when he won at the California-Nevada Championships in Fresno. The jump qualified for a trip to the 2008 nationals in Walnut, Calif., where he finished tied for 10th place.

He's peaking at the right time now, just like his senior year at Douglas when he celebrated a breakthrough and cleared 6-6 in his final two meets " capped by a gold medal performance at the NIAA State Championships.

"I still want to get better," he said. "There's a ton of little things I can still work on so I can jump higher."

Notes: Two other Douglas graduates competed for Cal State Chico this season: Nick Lonnegren, a junior sprinter, and Skylar Young, a freshman middle distance runner.

Lonnegren, a 2004 Douglas graduate who also plays basketball, sped to second-place in the men's 100 meters (10.78) and 200 (21.76) at the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in Chico two weeks ago. Young also finished 11th in the women's 800 (2:24.99 ... her best time is 2:19.34). Bertucci placed second in the CCAA meet with a 6-9 jump ... Bertucci switched his major from animal science to biology last year. His eventual goal is to become a veterinarian.


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