Before his senior year even started, Justin Zosso already knew how and where he wanted it to end.
As he packed up his equipment on the track infield at IU 364 days ago, he was already thinking about the 2012 state finals.
"I took July off, I did a little here and there, but I've pretty much been vaulting since state last year," said the Chesterton senior, who gave up wrestling to concentrate his attentions. "In the winter, I was in the fieldhouse. In the summer, I was out here (on the track). By the end of July, I decided I wanted to get a championship. "
Trojans coach TR Harlan can vouch for Zosso's commitment.
"I can't tell you how many time in the summer when we were in the fieldhouse and I had to put up bleachers so we weren't hitting Justin with volleyballs on the runway," Harlan said. "He's put in the time and effort to be a state champion. We'll find out (today) if it will be enough. If not, it won't be for a lack of preparation."
Zosso finished seventh as a junior with what was then a personal best of 15 feet, 3 inches. Five of the vaulters ahead of him were seniors. One of the other two isn't back. The other is Kyle Johnston of Penn, who took sixth place, also clearing 15-3. He had the state's top regional showing at 15-9.
"I think between 16 and 16-6 will win it," Zosso said. "There's always a few guys who could pop, but I'm not too worried. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I have to focus on myself. I can't stress about someone else."
During indoors, Zosso cleared 15-7. His best outdoors is a 15-6 at sectionals.
"From a team standpoint, we'd tell him, 'Go and get five (points).' We didn't care how high he'd go," Harlan said. "He and (vault) coach (Clint) Brown talked all year about setting up his training schedule for one meet. Not sectional, not regional, Saturday in Bloomington."
Only two other vaulters in the area reached 14 feet this season.
"His disadvantage all year was he was basically vaulting by himself," Harlan said. "Early in the year, Brett Lara was our No. 2 but he broke his foot. At regionals, (Zosso) vaulted once and he'd won. You don't have the adrenaline to put up (big) numbers without competition. We're really excited to see how he can do with a whole bunch of guys who are good. He's done a great job getting himself ready."
The process of improving in the off-season was a physical as well as a technical endeavor for Zosso. While increasing his speed and strength, he also refined his vaulting mechanics.
"I worked in the weight room, but 75 percent of my time was on the runway," he said. "I cleaned up some things, especially on top. Going over last year, I was awful. This year, I'm a lot better. I've started getting my shoulders back. I really needed to straighten up, where I'm going straight down at the peak of my heights. I wasn't able to do that last year at all."
A top-of-the-podium finish today could open some college doors for Zosso, but he remains singular in focusing on his performance, not what the result might bring.
"We're not going down to finish second," Harlan said. "Our goal is to win. There's no question about it. Anything short of 16 feet would be disappointing. There's no reason he can't do it. If Justin jumps as well as he can jump, he's the guy. We believe he wins."