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Valencia's Clint Gingrich: Brought into focus

Vikings senior has grown into a versatile and visible CIF contender

Posted: May 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia senior Clint Gingrich qualified for the CIF-Southern Section Division I prelims in four different events this season. It’s a fitting end to a career that’s seen Gingrich grow into one of the valley’s elite sprinters and jumpers.

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Valencia High’s Clint Gingrich has a unique way of focusing before track and field events.

He’ll chat up his opponents before a race or a jump. How they’re doing, what their personal record is, anything to take his mind off the event.

“I’m probably pretty annoying,” Gingrich laughs.

Maybe because he’s so good — good enough that he’s gotten people talking, and not just at Valencia.

He recorded four top-three finishes at Friday’s Foothill League finals, including second place in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet, 11 1/2 inches and third in the 400 in 49.94 seconds.

He won a league title as part of the 4x100-meter relay team, which ran the race in 42.45 seconds, and he was part of the runner-up 4x400 squad with a time of 3 minutes, 23.85 seconds.

He’ll take part in all four events at the CIF-Southern Section Division I prelims, which take place on Saturday at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo.

And those are just the events he wanted to do. Over the course of his career, the senior has also proven adept in the 200, the 800 and the triple jump.

It’s not that he can’t focus on one particular event. He’s just focused on excelling at all of them.

“It’s in his bloodlines,” says Valencia co-head coach Darryl De La Vega. “He comes from a long list of great athletes, from his sisters to his brother, so we’d expect that from him.”

Gingrich’s three older siblings all ran for Valencia. Gingrich himself started running when he was 5 years old, though his track and field enthusiasm can be traced back even earlier.

He says that when he was just 2, his parents took them to an SCV Running Warriors meet, where they were coaching and his siblings were running. They gave him the smallest uniform and put him in the slowest race of the 200, and let him run for fun.

Former Warriors coach and current Valencia High jumps coach Joey Tureaud has a different recollection.

“I used to put him on my back, and we’d race Delano Howell,” Tureaud says, “and beat him.”

The Hart High graduate Howell signed with the Buffalo Bills recently after a successful college football career at Stanford. He’s done all right for himself.

Gingrich has done all right for himself, too, since coming to Valencia, although he admits it was rough at times. Valencia’s varsity boys team has struggled against Foothill League competition, accumulating just two dual meet wins in his time there.

But the Vikings have featured some standout individual athletes, athletes that needed to sacrifice different events at different times to help maximize the team’s point total.

“That was one thing that was really different from Warriors,” Gingrich says. “We never accumulated team points or anything, so it was interesting doing track as a team sport. It took getting used to.”

He’s also made strides in his events. De La Vega says that Gingrich was more successful in the 200 and 800 as a freshman and sophomore, and has since branched out thanks in part to that base.

When he started jumping for Valencia, Tureaud says some of the other jumpers didn’t take him seriously because of his sprinting background.

They do now. Gingrich owns the school record in the long jump, which was previously 21-1 1/2, and he’s able to get extra length during jumps thanks to his form.

“He’s had a drastic improvement,” Tureaud says. “He’s finally getting it to where he feels comfortable with his landing. His reach is so much different than it used to be.”

So is his potential. Gingrich only qualified for the Division I prelims in the 4x400 last season, and he missed the event because of his sister’s wedding.

This spring, the seed times for both Valencia relays are among the top nine in the ultra-competitive Division I field — and the top nine advance to finals. His seed mark in the long jump is also top nine.

His seed time in the 400 is 15th, but his times have been dropping steadily over the past four weeks.

So much responsibility at one postseason meet may seem daunting. Gingrich thrives on it.

“It’s just kind of normal,” he says. “I’ve been doing four events for my entire track career, so doing one just feels weird.”

Gingrich has his sights set on reaching the CIF-SS Div. I finals, at the least. Tureaud acknowledges he has a shot to reach state in the long jump.

That’s a ways down the road, as is Brigham Young University, where Gingrich plans to walk on to the track team.

The future of Valencia’s boys program has also seen an upswing.

Its participation has grown the past couple seasons.

That’s helped the team find talented athletes like, for example, Gingrich’s relay teammates James Berkley, Nick Jones, Michael Kojin and Calvin Olbes.

But some still aren’t convinced of the program’s bright future.

“There’s some kids on our team that are like, ‘After you guys are gone, we’re hopeless,’” Gingrich says. “But you never know. Some of these younger guys could come on pretty well.”

He would know.



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