Peri Howser ran into problems last weekend at the CIF Southern Section divisional track and field finals at Mt. San Antonio College.
Her run was precisely the problem. Timing is everything in pole vaulting, and Howser’s timing was off on her approach.
When she got home that night and watched video with her father and coach, Fritz, she saw the issue.
“I was running from two different spots,” Peri Howser said. “I was kind of freaking out while I was jumping. I didn’t know why I was out so far, but I figured it out that I was running from the wrong spot. I had to pull it together; I had to figure it out. After that, to know that I still made it through, I was just so happy. I was very stoked about that, because I definitely made it very difficult for myself.”
Howser still was able to clear 11 feet at the meet, finishing third in Division 2 and making the Masters Meet for the first time. She was the only girl from Newport-Mesa to make Masters in an event.
Her season ended there. On Friday at Cerritos College, Howser could only clear 10-9, tying for ninth. She didn’t get the top-six finish or 11-9 clearance that she needed to make the CIF State Meet.
But Howser doesn’t plan to stop now. She said she definitely wants to pole vault in college, and she’s deciding between Washington and Texas.
Either program would be fortunate to have her. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has blossomed in the past two years, becoming the top varsity pole vaulter at Newport Harbor. This year she upped the ante, improving her personal-record to 11-9, which placed her top 20 in California. Howser made the mark at a Sunset League dual meet against Edison.
She was the league champion, and never lost a league dual meet. She finished first place at several meets, including the Irvine Invitational, Beach Cities Invitational and Mira Costa Mustang Relays.
Not bad for a girl who only started pole vaulting when she got to high school. Eventually, she stopped playing soccer and volleyball and turned her focus to vaulting.
Her father, a longtime vault coach, did play a role.
“I started because of my dad, but I stayed because I really do love the sport,” Peri Howser said. “He actually encouraged me to do high jump, but I didn’t like that.
“I don’t understand high jump. There’s nothing helping you get over the bar. It feels like you could easily just fall on the ground. At least with pole vaulting, you have something helping you, I guess.”
Her father has also helped. Fritz also coached his son by the same name at Newport Harbor. The younger Fritz, who graduated last year, now pole vaults at Boston University.
Both father and daughter have enjoyed the relationship, but sometimes it gets complex.
“It’s very rewarding,” Fritz Howser said. “It’s difficult at times, however, drawing the lines between being the parent and being the coach. Sometimes the lines get blurred.”
But Peri calls her father her biggest supporter. Fritz is one person who wasn’t surprised that his daughter could figure things out last weekend, when problems arose.
“She’s fairly stoic,” he said. “She doesn’t say much. It’s not a big emotional thing. She understands she’s got to work harder and come back and fight another day.”
Peri has definitely done that throughout her time at Newport Harbor. She persevered through a tough sophomore year.
“I did horrible that year,” Peri Howser said. “I don’t know why. I think I got mental on myself. To turn around and do so well [as a junior], I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I was really happy about everything that happened.
“I knew that I had so much more to offer to the sport and everything. For some reason, I was having an off year [as a sophomore]. I never wanted to quit.”
She’s definitely glad now that she stuck it out.
When she runs into problems, Howser generally has an answer.
Born: May 13, 1995
Hometown: Newport Beach
Sport: Track and field
Coach: Fritz Howser
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: “We Bought a Zoo”
Favorite athletic moment: Reaching the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet for the first time.
Week in review: Howser cleared 11 feet in the girls’ pole vault at the CIF Southern Section Division 2 finals on May 18 at Mt. San Antonio College, placing third and advancing to the Masters Meet.