By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

Thirteen feet.

For Kelsy Hintz, that's the number she's striving to obtain when she competes in the girls pole vault at the State Track and Field Championships in Sacramento beginning today.

A junior at Del Norte High, this is the second year Hintz, 16, has succeeded in completing the difficult task of making it to state and being considered among the elite in the state's girls pole vault.

Her goal is to reach 13 feet, which would break her mark of 12-3 feet, which she made at state last year - and to place higher than her fifth place finish.

andquot;If everything comes together I think I can do it,andquot; she said. andquot;You just have to be mentally there and let it come naturally and put it all together.andquot;

In the state championships, the top nine finishers on Friday will go on to the finals on Saturday.

To get to state this year, Hintz finished second in the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on May 25 in Berkeley, vaulting 12-3 feet which smashed the meet mark of 11-6 feet.

Stacey Jung of Campolindo High also vaulted the same height, but placed first because she did not use as many attempts during the competition.

At the event, Hintz was able to overcome a few rough patches, including needing three attempts to make 11-6 feet and 12 feet.

andquot;It was very stressful,andquot; she said the day of the meet. andquot;I'm glad with the outcome but to get there was a struggle.andquot;

Hintz first discovered pole vaulting in 8th grade when Steve Godla, father of good friend Lauren Godla, who competed in track and field at the time, suggested to her that he thought she had the natural ability to do well in the pole vault.

Hintz was already an accomplished dancer and had been dancing since she was three. She was a natural athlete.

Besides track and field, where she has competed in other events like the 200-meter dash and as a member of the girls 4x100 relay team, she has been a cheerleader and a member of the girls volleyball squad at the high school.

Hintz said the dancing skills have come in handy with the pole vault, where being able to have total control of your body and to be flexible, such as when hanging upside down from a thin pole, are key to success in the pole vault.

Hintz is quick to thank and be appreciative of the coaches and family members who have been with her every step of the way in her track and field career.

Assistant track coach Dave Bokor has worked closely with Hintz, helping her with her technique and pushing her to meet and exceed her goals.

andquot;He pushes me to be a better athlete and vaulter,andquot; she said, adding he has always been there to help her, even coming to the field on weekends to work with her.

andquot;She does what she has to do and gets the job done,andquot; Bokor said. andquot;She does everything you ask of her.andquot;

Head track coach Scott Lindsay has also been a mentor and has worked with Hintz as well.

When Bokor is unable to come to the track field on weekends, Lindsay comes down to the field to offer his help.

andquot;He has such a fun attitude,andquot; she said. andquot;He always lightens the mood.andquot;

Her family has been a huge support in her endeavors, Hintz said, saying her mother, grandmother and grandfather always find a way to see her compete, regardless of distance.

Even if one family member can't make it, at least one will be at an event to cheer Hintz on.

andquot;They're always there for me,andquot; she said. andquot;It's nice to know I have that support.andquot;

She added they all plan to be in Sacramento cheering her on.

After high school is over, Hintz plans to go on to college and hopefully continue her pole vaulting career.

Already, she has received more than 25 letters of interest from schools throughout the country, she said.

Hintz said she's grateful for the opportunities she has had in her track and field career.

andquot;The experience has just been great,andquot; she said. andquot;It's nice to be good at something and to keep working and getting better because I'm not perfect.andquot;

To Lindsay, a key to Hintz's success in the pole vault is her dedication and drive to get better and to realize it takes more than natural talent and skill to do well - it also takes a lot of work.

Even during the off-season, Hintz is at the field perfecting her vaulting, or going to pole vaulting summer camps and competing in national events. For instance, last January, Hintz went to the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nev.

andquot;She continues to work on getting better and does what it takes to do so,andquot; Lindsay said.

He is pleased Hintz has made state again this year and said competing against top-notch talent can only make her better.

At the top of that list is senior Tori Anthony of Castilleja High School, who will be attending UCLA next year and compete in track.

She won the state pole vault last year and is considered one of the best high school pole vaulter sin the country.

Lindsay said he believes she will compete in the Olympics someday.