To say Zaria Fuller’s near-miss in last year’s state outdoor championship pentathlon has haunted her would be way too strong. But she certainly hasn’t forgotten. The Uniondale senior’s mental recall is strong. She remembers a lot, forgets little, and works hard to put both those qualities to good use.
The end result, she hopes, is a pentathlon state championship this June — an event that she said she rarely wins, but usually finishes high. In fact, aside from the Nassau state qualifier, Fuller said that she’s never won the pentathlon at a major meet. She wants to change that.
Sounds like a perfectly good goal before her final season in black and yellow. She’ll run at the University of South Florida next season.
“Every time I come in second, or fall short, I know exactly what it is that I did that time,” Fuller said. “It all just builds up, and the experience is something I may have over the other competitors.”
The girls pentathlon features the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, and the 800.
Fuller is the highest returning finisher from last year’s state pentathlon. She finished second, 52 points behind the since-graduated Alexandria Payne of Jamesville-DeWitt.
“After the pent, the feeling of knowing that I could have done better and it should have been better was a feeling that I can’t erase from my memory,” Fuller said. “I’m usually thinking about the pent when it comes to spring time, but this time that’s one of my main focuses because I know how last season ended.”
It was the second time Fuller placed second in the event at the state championships. She won the silver as a freshman in 2016, the only underclassman to finish in the top three that year.
So, she knows what she’s doing.
“I’m pretty versatile,” Fuller said. “…When they came to me about doing the pent my freshman year, my eyes were wide open. Me being so unfamiliar with some of the events only drove me to become familiar with it. I wanted to do it, I had fun doing it, so I wanted to get better at it.”
In last year’s pentathlon, Fuller won the high jump (five feet, 5¼ inches), placed second in the 100-meter hurdles (14.80), sixth in the shot put (31-9 1/2), tied for fourth in the long jump (16-11¼), and was 10th in the 800 (2:31.47).
“My hurdles weren’t as good as they should have been, and that was definitely a factor,” Fuller said. “Coming into the 800, I was only 20 points ahead of the girl in second at the time and she ended up beating me because she ran a faster 800. I know that, if I had run a better hurdles and had a better start, I would have made up those points and it would have been a different story.”
Still, Fuller said she wants to work on her 800 time because, as pentathletes know, that’s usually a make-or-break event.
“It always comes down to the 800,” she said.
Fuller will run some more open 800’s early in the season to sharpen her skills, she said.
“The 800 is a very strategic event,” she said. “Everyone has their different running style and different strategies. I’ve always tried different things when it’s come to running the 800, it just comes down to me finding a pace, a strategy, and a running style that I’m comfortable with. I think once that [happens], my 800 time will be much better.”
Despite being the top returner, Fuller isn’t taking anything for granted. She wasn’t happy with her indoor season, citing a lack of consistency, and wants to make sure she closes her senior season strong.
““I’m pretty anxious right now. I’m driven because I didn’t have the indoor season I expected and I’m ready to run,” Fuller said. “…I’m excited to do the pent again. I never doubt anyone else’s ability. I hope there’s good competition there and I know there probably will be. I’m not going to slack and automatically think I have it in the bag. I’m going to work for it and do my part.”
HILLS EAST'S JEAN LOOKS TO DOUBLE UP
What would be better than one high jump state championship? How about two?
That’s what Half Hollow Hills East sophomore Soledad Jean has a chance to do this June. Jean cleared a personal best 5-7 to win the indoor high jump state championship earlier this month. The gold has granted her a boatload of well-deserved confidence headed into the spring.
“My approach was a little bit shaky [last] spring season,” Jean said. “Now, in winter, it [was] better and my form going over the bar definitely got a little bit better. But there’s still always room for improvement.”
Outdoor jumping brings challenges of its own. Colder weather means more layers, which affects movement. Outdoor surfaces require spikes, affecting the approach.
However, Jean isn’t afraid of the winds that March and April tend to bring.
“The wind is mostly about the bar,” Jean said. “The wind shouldn’t affect anyone’s jump, unless you’re like two pounds.”