Zinnerman soars to NCS high jump title
Rancho Cotate standout has eyes on personal best jump at state championship in Clovis this weekend
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By Dave Williams  June 6, 2014 12:00 am

All Justin Zinnerman wants this weekend is to achieve his personal best high jump at the California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships.

If he does, Zinnerman believes he’ll finish in the top three in the state. Rancho Cotate’s standout high jumper cleared 6 feet, 9 inches – his personal best thus far – last weekend to win his first North Coast Section title at UC Berkeley. He was unsuccessful in three attempts at clearing 6-10, which is his goal entering the state championships, which begin today.

Zinnerman currently is tied for the third highest leap in California this year. He defeated David Chukwu, of Fremont’s American High for the NCS title. Ironically, Chukwu owns the second-highest leap in California at 6-10, which he achieved on May 16. Both competitors cleared 6-9, but Zinnerman won by statute because Chukwu hit the bar more often while attempting the winning height.

“I would have loved to win it outright,” a humble Zinnerman said. “His (Chukwu) personal best is 6-10 and it was just a bad day for him…I know he could have done better. But I got my PR that day.”

The jumping junior placed third last year and attributes his ascension to the NCS title to improved technique and lots of practice.

“My technique was horrible last year, but working on it is mainly what gave me the extra three inches this year,” he said.

Zinnerman will jump in the preliminaries tonight at 6:30 p.m., and if he finishes in the top six, he’ll advance to Saturday’s championship round. Last year was the first time Zinnerman got to see the top competition from throughout the state and may have been a little awestruck. He doesn’t believe that will be the case this year.

“I’m feeling more confident, and I know competition better,” Zinnerman said. “I know a lot of people who’ll be there and know what they’re capable of. If I get a PR, I’m looking at a second or a third. But if I PR and don’t take second or third, then I’m fine.”

Had he not qualified for the state championships, Zinnerman would have been heading to Oregon for a second-tier track and field competition.

“That Oregon track meet was a backup for seniors who were good enough to go to state but didn’t get the qualifying height,” Zinnerman said.

Later this month, however, Zinnerman hopes to head to Annapolis, Md., to take part in a track and field camp where he’ll get a look at some of the nation’s best jumpers on the collegiate, high school and professional level. 

“The people at the camp will teach me about nutritional facts…how to eat like an Olympian, and I’ll get to be on the track with athletes who have gone 7 feet or higher,” he said. “They’ll also teach me the right form, techniques and they’ll help me with my approach.”

Getting to the camp, however, will take some financial assistance from the community. Anyone wishing to assist Zinnerman on his trip can send donations to The Community Voice at P.O. Box 2038, Rohnert Park, CA 94927 or you can bring them in to The Community Voice office at 100 Professional Center Dr. Suite 110, in Rohnert Park. Be sure to make all checks are payable to Justin Zinnerman.

Zinnerman says he is considering playing football for Rancho Cotate in the fall. If he does, he’ll be a wide receiver. As much as he likes having teammates, he likes the solitude of high jumping much more.

“Teammates make sports more fun overall, but I like the individual sport because I can’t blame teammates for my mistakes…it’s all on me,” Zinnerman said.

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