UC IRVINE NOTEBOOK / MIKE REILLEY : Hewitt Thrives Amid Team's Bare Essentials

It's not an Olympic event, at least not yet. But you could call it an exhibition sport, of sorts.

And there aren't too many people lining up to challenge Mike Hewitt's claim of a world record in . . .

"Naked pole vaulting," he said. "Fourteen feet. I set it during practice last year.

"Matt Farmer had the record at 12 feet, but I had to bring the boy down."

A small crowd gathered at the Anteaters' track to watch Hewitt go airborne in the buff.

"We had everybody out here," Hewitt said. "We even videotaped it. I showed my parents and grandparents. They're proud of me. Their son has a world record."

But Hewitt, a fifth-year senior from Greeley, Colo., has had even more success when he's dressed. Still, he believes in keeping practices interesting with fun competitions such as "King of the Pit."

"I'm not much of a practice vaulter," he said. "My best in practice is 16-2."

Hewitt cleared 16-5 1/2 in a meet at Cal State Northridge last week, the fourth-best mark in school history. Both he and Anteater Coach Vince O'Boyle think the school record--17-1--is definitely within Hewitt's reach.

"He has scored in every conference championship for us since his freshman year," O'Boyle said. "And he should at least be in the top three this year."

Hewitt also has made the conference's all-academic team the past three years, maintaining a 3.6 grade-point average in biology.

Hewitt has only eight collegiate meets left, but he hopes to continue training next year when he enters medical school. He has applied at Tufts in Medford, Mass., and Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

"I would like to continue on in the sport," he said. "After competing for the last eight years, it becomes part of you. I vaulted when I visited Tufts, and they told me I can help coach there next year.

"But it depends on medical school. I think I would be fooling myself to say I could work out there as hard as I do here."

Hewitt began pole vaulting as a high school sophomore, borrowing his older brother Dave's equipment and setting up a jumping pit in his back yard. He cleared 15 feet as a senior, the best mark in Colorado that year, but finished third at the state meet because of a knee injury he suffered during football season.

His injury slowed him at Irvine. He sat out his freshman season as a medical redshirt after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament. He returned the following season and has been one of O'Boyle's most consistent performers.

O'Boyle calls Hewitt "one of the loyal guys" who stayed at UC Irvine after the track and field program was dropped last year. The program returned on a partially funded basis this year, paying for Hewitt's equipment and other costs.

Hewitt said he stayed because of loyalty to O'Boyle and Doug Sparks, his vaulting coach. He also wanted to finish his education at Irvine, so transferring was out of the question.

"This program has probably been the most successful one on campus," he said. "We have the highest grade-point average among all the athletic teams. I'm glad they brought the program back."

But is it here to stay?

"I would hate to come back here in five years and see a parking lot here instead of a track," he said.

*

Despite speculation that Coach Bobby Cremins could be leaving, Georgia Tech still has the inside track on New York City prep basketball star Ed Elisma, said Ed Aberer, Elisma's high school coach.

Elisma, a 6-foot-10, 200-pound center, narrowed his choices to Georgia Tech and UC Irvine a few weeks ago, eliminating two other finalists, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.

Georgia Tech is Elisma's front-runner, although that could change if Cremins left. Cremins has been mentioned as a candidate for the coaching vacancy at South Carolina, his alma mater.

"He's (Elisma) leaning toward Georgia Tech right now," said Aberer, Elisma's coach at LaSalle Academy. "Just look at the program there. They just won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and Irvine got eliminated in the first round of the Big West (tournament). But Irvine isn't out of it by any means."

Elisma committed to Irvine coaches last fall but later changed his mind, saying he would make his decision in the spring. April 1 is the first day of the late basketball signing period.

Elisma completed his high school career last Thursday, when LaSalle (17-10) lost in the semifinals of the Catholic High School Athletic Assn. tournament. He averaged 12.7 points, 16.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocked shots.

Anteater notes

Women's crew won the novice eights competition against Loyola Marymount and San Diego State last Saturday in Newport Beach, covering the 2,000-meter course in seven minutes 55 seconds. The Anteaters' varsity eights finished second in 7:39, as well as the novice fours. The men's crew finished second in the varsity eights, the junior varsity fours and the novice eights. Both Anteater teams will compete Saturday at the Long Beach Regatta.

Junior point guard Lloyd Mumford was named the Big West's top non-freshman newcomer in the Long Beach Press-Telegram's survey of conference coaches. Mumford, a transfer from Villanova, set the Irvine season record for assists with 151.

Freshman forward Shaun Battle was named to the Big West's all-freshman team. He started 11 of the 21 games he played, averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds a game.

The men's tennis team plays host to 15th-ranked Arkansas at 1:30 p.m. Friday and to Clemson at 2 p.m. Sunday. The women's tennis team will play host to Yale at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°