April 6, 2009 - 3:15 PM By Ryan Casey Ahwatukee Foothills News

Sixteen-five. As of now, that's the goal.

When it comes to pole vaulting, that number - especially at Desert Vista - is a significant one.

Sixteen feet, 5 inches. It's the qualifying-standard for 2009 USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships.

Sixteen feet, 5 inches. It would eclipse - by one-fourth of an inch - the school record set by former state champion Shea Kearny his senior season.

That's the mark, said DV pole vault coach Jeff Guy, that Alec has his sights set on.

Alec Hsu, a senior for the Thunder this season, is the most promising male vaulter Desert Vista has had since Kearny won the Class 5A-I crown in 2007.

He's grown up a lot, Guy said of Hsu.

A third-generation pole vaulter - his grandfather, living in China, started the trend; his father and brother have continued it - Hsu took up vaulting the summer before he entered eighth grade.

Guy remembers Hsu being reluctant at first, especially of hitting the pit post-jump. But Guy also remembers the raw talent Hsu showed, evidenced by the 12-foot, 6-inch jump he hit his first season that remains a DV freshman record.

Last season, Hsu cleared 15-6 at the season-ending Meet of Champions.

Two weeks ago, Hsu cleared 16 feet. Twice.

The first came at a dual meet on a Wednesday; the second at the prestigious Chandler Rotary over the weekend - after he had cleated himself on his first attempt, which came at 15 feet.

I think at Rotary, because I had just made 16, I was kind of doubtful I would do it again, Hsu said, but then I did it on my first attempt.

Hsu tried 16-5 at Rotary, and narrowly missed.

I've been working on getting stronger, working on my technique, and just hitting the right positions in my takeoff and getting tighter, Hsu said. I guess in the past two weeks, I've been starting to do that.

Sixteen-five remains the goal. For now. Guy envisions Hsu making an attempt at 17 feet before the summer's over.

If we continue to execute and work on things, he's going to jump pretty high, Guy said. Sixteen feet this early is pretty high.

Hsu said he'll take a run at 16-6 at the annual Arcadia Invitational in California this weekend. After that, he added, I'll be trying to get 17.

One major obstacle remains along the way, though. Hsu used 15-foot poles all through last year. This year, he's bumped himself up seven inches, and tried 16-foot poles on his attempt at 16-5.

The 16-foot poles, they feel a lot different than the 15-7 poles, Hsu said. I don't know, I feel like I'm mentally ready, but it doesn't show up in my vault. So my last attempt, I got on the 16-foot pole, but I didn't quite hit as strong as I normally would, and didn't quite get into the pit, so that's why I had to bail out.

Hsu's athletic background may have something to do with his success. He was part of DV's soccer program early in his high school career, and was the Thunder football team's varsity kicker this past season.

I think it helped his mental toughness, Guy said of the variety of sports. He was very young (when he started).

Hsu's also varied within track itself, placing fourth in the 110-meter hurdles at Rotary.

It's something he's done since he was in sixth grade, but I've never really been that fast, Hsu said, laughing.

Hurdles help (pole-vaulting), Hsu said, just the mentality, trying to be aggressive.

It also helps his approach down the runway.

It establishes rhythm for the run, Guy said. I like him running them.

Hsu has signed with Rice - he'll continue to also compete in the hurdles - and will be joining Kearny there next season. He'd also been talking to Stanford and Columbia.

I think Alec's going to fit in real well there, Guy said.