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Teddy Scranton has never felt solid on the pole vault.

“My first year, I didn’t even vault 10 feet,” he said of his freshman year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “Which is really low. Like JV boys high school low.”

“I don’t have a feel for it,” he said. “I just kind of get up there and freak out. If I could have figured it out, I could have been a much better decathlete.”

Well, that’s weird, because Scranton, a 2013 Petaluma High grad and competing in his senior season at Cal Poly, is the newly crowned best decathlete in the Big West Conference, freaky pole vault and all.

At the championship meet in May, Scranton bested a field of 16 other athletes over the course of two days in the 10 decathlon disciplines: 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, javelin, 1,500 meters and yes, the pole vault. A Mustang hadn’t won the decathlon since 2009.

Scranton’s win sent the Mustangs into the individual championship meet a week later with a 10 point head start. For good measure, Scranton advanced in the javelin from the individual meet to the NCAA Div.1 West preliminary meet in at the University of Texas.

But it was the decathlon win that was the biggee. Scranton was back and forth with defending champ Tyler Nelson of UC Santa Barbara for two days.

In the end, Scranton’s big point hauls in the throws and the 1,500 meter race led him to 7,143 points to Nelson’s 6,944.

And to think that Scranton took up track in high school to get fitter for football.

Scranton was the Trojans’ best lineman on both offense and defense but was looking for a fitness boost in the spring season after he got cut from the baseball team.

Turns out Scranton, a guy who terrorized opponents on the Trojans’ line, was pretty good at this track thing.

He ran the 100- and 200-meter sprints and put the shot and threw the discus. It was in the discus that he caught Cal Poly’s attention.

Scranton, a standout student, had already gained admission to Cal Poly (along with UC Davis, USC and others) but hadn’t settled on where he wanted to go. He sent out feelers about walking on in football and track. Response was lukewarm.

Then Scranton threw a personal record of 163-10 at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions his senior year to earn a trip to the state meet. It was at the state meet in Clovis that a Cal Poly coach caught sight of him.

Seeing that he was a senior, she thought it was too late to lure the big Trojan to San Luis Obispo.

“Actually, he’s already going to Cal Poly,” Scranton remembers his coach, Reggie Pearson telling the coach.

“It went from me trying out to being a preferred walk-on. It was kind of a cool, funny story,” Scranton said.

The Mustangs coaching staff must be laughing now, having a bona fide gem fall into their laps.

Scranton finished third in the 2015 decathlon as a sophomore and fourth his junior year.

It was anyone’s game this time around after a slew of the top competitors, including Scranton, suffered nagging injuries all spring. No one knew what anyone could, or would, pull off.

“I definitely didn’t expect it going into it,” he said of the conference title after suffering through a bum knee for months. “I want to say that after the 100 I was like ‘Oh yeah, you know, I have a shot at this.’ ”

Scranton finished seventh in the 100 with a time of 11.27 seconds; ninth in the long jump with a leap of 21-feet, 1 inch; second in the shot with a put of 46-feet, 10 inches; seventh in the high jump with a leap of six feet, four inches; fifth in the 400 meters with a run of 51.45 seconds; fourth in the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.39; first in the discus with a 152-feet, 10-inch throw, eighth in pole vault, clearing 12-feet, six inches, second in javelin with a throw of 179-feet, 10 inches and second in the 1,500-meters, finishing in 4:53.

Maybe more than the 100 meters, Scranton’s high jump appeared to set the tone for the rest of the event.

“I high jumped 6-4,” he said. His previous best was and inch lower and he had not been seriously practicing the discipline all spring because of his gimpy knee.

The lead went back and forth between Scranton and defending champ Nelson for two days. But Day 2 featured two of Scranton’s best disciplines; javelin and discus.

Scranton had taken the lead for good after the javelin — the ninth event.

His 1,500-meter finale was nearly a formality.

“This is my last one and I wanted to run it hard,” he said.

The other competitors had something else in mind and took the first two laps at cruiser pace.

“I still ran the race to kind of clinch it,” he said. “The first two laps were really slow and the reason was I was just sitting on Tyler was so that he didn’t try to pull away. I could tell after the first two laps that he wasn’t going to go for it, so I just decided to go for it.”

Scranton crossed the line second. Then came the joyful tackle. Teammate Jacob Rickman took the former lineman out.

“My teammate Jacob was almost more pysched about it than I was,” he said. “It was a satisfying feeling. It was cool to win one for the team.”

Especially for a guy still slightly freaked out by the pole vault.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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