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FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR HIGH FLYER Gratigny Was Brilliant In 2012-13
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The leaps of Oakdale High senior Kellie Gratigny ensured her selection as the 2013 Oakdale Leader Female Athlete of the Year. IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

She doesn’t deny it.

Class of 2013 Oakdale High graduate Kellie Gratigny, a scholarship athlete who will compete for UC Santa Barbara’s track and field program later this year, admits that she fell into her prolific jumping career by utilizing the mother of all adolescent traits — laziness.

“I guess you could say that I started jumping because I was lazy,” Gratigny acknowledged with a laugh. “I didn’t do track as a sophomore, and coming into my junior year I didn’t want to run, so I did as many jumping events as I possibly could, to avoid running.”

The crafty ploy designated Gratigny for a darling career on the track team, paved the way for back-to-back Valley Oak League titles and an intense level of prestige for a fierce competitor who also became the top talent on Oakdale’s varsity volleyball team.

Her collective success between the two sports made for an easy selection as 2013 Oakdale Leader Female Athlete of the Year.

“I think she is naturally athletic,” Oakdale track coach Dave Bacigalupi said. “If she works hard I think she is going to do really well at UC Santa Barbara.”

It stands to reason that she will.

With only two years at the jump pits and a lack of offseason track preparation, Gratigny still became one of the top jumpers in the section. She hit 38 feet, 1 inch (triple jump) twice at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships to come within three inches of school record-holder Jaci Powell and finished as the No. 5 triple jumper in all of the SJS.

She was a Division IV-V triple jump champion and also landed her personal best to qualify for Masters in the long jump.

She will compete in both jumping events at UC Santa Barbara, a welcoming sight for an outdoor Gaucho program that hasn’t competed with an elite jumper since 2010. Gratigny’s 38-1 in the triple would already land her eighth all time in UC Santa Barbara history, and surpass program highs from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.

“I’m very excited to jump for UC Santa Barbara,” Gratigny said. “This is my dream school. It’s perfect — right on the beach.”

Gratigny made the commitment to UC Santa Barbara in February after an entertaining two-day visit with the program in January. She said the trip included a tour of their pristine campus, an overnight stay with current UCSB track athlete and a viewing of program workouts.

“The visit definitely sealed the deal,” Gratigny said. “I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be like, but I got to know the girls and coaches and I really liked the feel of it.”

At 5 feet, 5 inches tall, Gratigny isn’t your typical jumper. What she lacks in height, she makes up for in long legs, superb technique and an uncanny adoption to instruction. It’s also what made her so good on the volleyball court and a terrific asset for Oakdale coach Shelli Ponce.

“I think she is a good natural athlete, and for her it was just fine-tuning those skills,” Ponce said. “What made her so good was her willingness to apply what coaches teach her, along with her team-player capability.”

As a junior, Gratigny had the difficulty of replacing four-year sensation Jackee Lee as the Mustang setter. With the success of Oakdale’s historically dominant program hinging on her every move, Gratigny delivered a superb two-year career that amassed 966 assists, 100 aces, 454 service points and 157 digs.

She was flat-out brilliant in the postseason with diving pancake digs, timely assists and vocal leadership of the program.

“I was a little nervous at first with her replacing Jackee, and the biggest thing I was concerned with was her leadership on the court,” Ponce said. “But she really worked hard, played well and stepped into those shoes beautifully.

“I could not have been happier.”

With Gratigny directing play, Oakdale went 41-11 overall and 25-3 in the VOL during her two years at setter. The standout Mustang graduate attributes her collective success to the efforts of Bacigalupi and Ponce.

“They were always great coaches and they supported me in anything I wanted to do,” Gratigny said. “I am definitely going to miss the small-town feel in Oakdale.

“I really liked playing sports here and feeling like the whole town comes together to watch and support.”

Workouts at UCSB pick up soon for Gratigny, who will devote herself year-round to indoor (Fall) and outdoor (Spring) track and field. She said she plans to stick with long jump and triple jump, but she was a member of the school-record 400 relay team and her best 400 meter times rank with some of the best in the section. It’s been two years since she sought to avoid running events, and old habits die hard.

“I know I am going to have to run in practice, but my coach said unless he sees some unexpected talent in a running event, I won’t have to run,” Gratigny said. “Hopefully he doesn’t look at my 400 times.”