Landing a legal triple jump of 50 feet or further has become a lost art in high school boys’ track and field.
At least in California, it has.
Only one high school athlete from the state has gone at least 50 feet in the triple jump throughout the past four outdoor seasons.
By comparison, from 1976 to 1994, all but two CIF-State champions went at least 50 feet to win the event.
As track and field has waned in popularity, particularly among strong, agile boys who increasingly focus on football preparations in the spring, a high percentage of marks posted in the 70s and 80s still dominate the record books.
Titan Ruotolo of Mater Dei hopes to buck that trend.
Ruotolo is set to begin his senior season with the Monarchs after winning a CIF-SS Division 2 title in the triple jump last May, hitting the sand with a first-place mark of 45-9 3/4.
His best jump was 46-7, accomplished at the Woodbridge Invitational last March. He long ago set his sights on surpassing 50 feet before graduating in May.
It’s a distance only three boys from Orange County have ever recorded, and none since 1993.
“My motivation is probably everyone that doubts me,” he said. “Everyone just thinks that I can’t do it.”
When track and field was in its heyday in the 1970s and 80s, seeing a 50-foot triple jump wasn’t that rare. Of the 11 athletes in California who went 51-8 or better, all hit that mark before 1994.
In the past four outdoor seasons, only two-time state champion CJ Stevenson of Great Oak in Temecula has gone at least 50 feet.
Tony Parrish of Marina was the most recent athlete from Orange County to hit the 50-foot mark, winning the 1993 state title at 50-11 3/4. Parrish went on to play nine seasons in the NFL.
Mater Dei’s current school record in the triple jump is 47-5 1/2, set by Chris Conrad in 1987.
Ruotolo wouldn’t mind leaving his name in the record books, something his sister, Dominique, accomplished in two events as a senior last season.
Dominique set school records in the triple jump (41-4 1/2) and long jump (19-2 1/2). Her long jump record came at the CIF-Master Meet, in which she won both events. She went on to finish fourth in state in the long jump.
Titan Ruotolo specializes in the triple jump, but can also score points in the long jump and high jump, which will come in handy in team scoring events.
“Over the years, I just felt I developed as a track athlete,” he said. “I just slowly started to get it and get it, and it’s just starting to all come together.”
Ruotolo finished 10th at the Masters Meet last season and didn’t qualify for state, one more item he hopes to check off this season.
Should he finish in the top six at Masters and qualify for state, Ruotolo’s biggest challenge will likely come from Tianhao Wei of South Pasadena, who finished second at Masters last season with a personal-best 47-6. Wei finished fifth at state a week later.
Should Ruotolo, Wei or anyone else hit the 50-foot mark at state, they’ll be in good shape for a title. After all, nobody’s reached that mark at the state finals since 2014.