Greg Vann is not in Spain anymore. He’s back to riding the bus to track meets instead of flying to his destinations.
Vann doesn’t need an airplane to fly high.
“He likes to hang in the air,” said Rio Mesa High track and field head coach Brian FitzGerald about Vann’s long jump technique. “He stays up there for a while.”
Vann quickly developed into one of the top boys’ long jumpers in the state with less than two years of experience in the sport.
The junior Spartan spent the last three years living at the U.S. Naval station in Rota, Spain.
Vann joined the track team at David Glasgow Farragut High last year and dominated opponents from other military-based schools across Europe.
“We would fly to meets,” Vann said. “It was pretty cool to see other countries, but I’m glad to be back in the United States. I don’t mind taking the bus.”
Vann catapulted 21 feet, 1 inch in the long jump last year. He has shattered the mark since joining Rio Mesa.
The first-year Spartan jumped 23-11.5 on March 29 to win the long jump competition at the Mount Carmel Invitational, one of the most prestigious meets in the nation, in San Diego.
Vann defeated Gardena Serra’s Adoree’ Jackson, the top-ranked long jumper in the nation and a five-star football recruit signed to USC.
“That was a great experience,” Vann said. “I never thought I would win. I really doubted myself. Everyone hyped (Jackson) up. I thought I had no chance.
“I won’t ever doubt myself again.”
Vann’s personal-best mark of 23-11.5 puts him third in the state and 14th in the U.S., according to DyeStat.com. Jackson leads the pack with a jump of 25-5.25.
“I didn’t know how well I was doing until I saw the rankings,” Vann said. “I’m starting to make a name for myself. I’ve received a few college letters. It feels good.”
Vann also excels in the triple jump and high jump, and he competes on the 4×100 relay team.
He’s fourth in Ventura County in the triple jump with a personalrecord of 43-4.5.
“I’ve learned a lot working with Brian FitzGerald,” Vann said. “He’s a great coach. I didn’t get that type of training in Spain.”
Vann was raised in Mississippi and has moved many times. His stepfather, Maurice Sutherland, is stationed at Point Mugu Naval Base in Oxnard.
Sutherland is a St. Louis native who met Vann and his family while stationed in Mississippi in 2000.
Vann is enjoying his stay in Southern California.
“California is a big change from Spain and Mississippi,” the junior said. “I didn’t know anyone. It was hard to start over again. My teammate David Thompson showed me around, and I started making friends.”
Vann suited up for the school’s junior varsity boys’basketball team in the winter. He grew up playing football, baseball and basketball.
“Greg has always been active,” Sutherland said. “He’s always enjoyed running. He never thought about doing it competitively until a coach in Spain approached him. It’s been fun watching him at meets. I’m proud of him.”
Vann is currently sidelined with an injury and won’t compete at the Mt. SAC Invitational this weekend.
He continues to practice hard and is gearing up for the Ventura County Track and Field Championships and the postseason meets next month.
Vann, who stands at 5-foot- 10, isn’t stressing about the big meets. He took the day off on Wednesday and visited Six Flags Magic Mountain.
“He has a lot of room to grow,” FitzGerald said. “He’s pretty much brand-new to track. He can probably be a top sprinter in the 100 next year.
“He’ll be a contender for the state title in the long jump this season and next season.”
CATCH UP WITH THE SPARTANS
Many Rio Mesa High track and field athletes are enjoying standout seasons this spring.
Junior Jimmy FitzGerald thrives in the boys’ 1,600-meter race with a personal-best time of 4 minutes, 15.97 seconds, which he achieved at the Arcadia Invitational last weekend.
FitzGerald holds the second fastest 1,600 time in Ventura County behind Oak Park’s Sahm Bazargan’s time of 4:12.2.
The two long-distance specialists will duke it out on Fri., May 2 at the Ventura County Track and Field Championships at Moorpark High.
“Bazargan is really good, but Jimmy can keep up,” said Rio Mesa head coach Brian FitzGerald, Jimmy’s uncle. “Jimmy’s goal is to run 4:12. I think he can get there. He ran a great race at Arcadia.”
Senior Jordan Tye is an explosive sprinter for the Spartans. Tye clocks in at 11.18 seconds in the boys’ 100.
He also competes in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
The Rio Mesa 4×400 boys’ relay team has clocked in at 3:21, which ranks 15th in the state, according to Brian FitzGerald.
israel Berry, David Thompson and Cameron Wrout run the 400 in under 52 seconds.
Alisha Greenlaw, a senior, is the Spartan girls’ team’s top sprinter and hurdler. She runs the 100 in 12.36 seconds and clocks in at 15.44 seconds in the 100 hurdles.
Cecilia Lucas excels in the girls’ triple jump event. She’s also a member of the school’s basketball and volleyball teams.
Sophomore Auburn Griffith is a top-notch 800 specialist.
The Rio Mesa boys’ and girls’ teams are 2-1, respectively, against Pacific View League teams.
Rio Mesa faces Hueneme at 3 p.m. on Thursday at home.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of talent on both sides,” FitzGerald said. “I’m excited to see how well we’ll compete as the big meets come along.”