Ceres High varsity boys track and field standout Austin Stiles pulled out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V Championships on May 17 at Stanislaus State.
Hampered by a groin injury since March, Austin opted not to compete in Turlock last week because he didn't want to risk further damage.
"It was tough getting over six feet at the Western Athletic Conference Championships the week before," said Stiles, who will play football for College of San Mateo this fall. "I was really hurting. The next day, it was super sore. I didn't feel 100 percent. It's a tough choice. But it's the right choice. I didn't want to hurt myself. I still have my college career ahead of me."
Stiles won the high-jump title at the 2016 WAC finals on May 12 in Merced.
He topped competitors from Livingston, Los Banos and Pacheco on his way to posting a perfect 3-0 record during the conference dual season.
Austin cleared a personal-best 6-6 while finishing first at County Clash IV on March 18 at Oakdale High School.
He also placed first at the Stanislaus County Meet (6-2) on March 11 in Turlock.
"Honestly, I'm not even sure," Stiles said when asked how high he would have jumped if he stayed healthy. "I cleared 6-8 at practice. I definitely would have improved. My PRs would have shot up. It's disappointing. But that's sports. Injuries happen. I can't change anything. I had a blast (competing for Ceres High). You meet other competitors. You hang out with your teammates. My coaches were really supportive. I miss it already."
A newcomer to the sport of football, Stiles still managed to draw interest from a handful of Division-I schools.
He decided to take the junior-college route to gain more experience and boost his stock.
Austin could have gone to Oregon, Fresno State, Wyoming or Toledo.
"It was so late in the year, they didn't have more money to offer," said Austin, who plans to transfer to a four-year college after spending one semester at San Mateo.
Stiles played organized football for the first time during his junior year at Ceres High.
He totaled 347 yards and two touchdowns while hauling in 27 passes at receiver.
He played in just six games due to injury.
Stiles had a breakout season with the Bulldogs this past fall.
He was selected to the WAC First Team. Stiles led the conference in receptions (38), yards (594) and touchdowns (9).
Austin caught 64 passes for 1,015 yards and 14 TDs in a total of 10 games.
Stiles visited San Mateo on May 14.
He'll start training for the upcoming football season next month.
"I fell in love with the campus," Stiles said. "They had a great presentation for me. They showed me a lot of love. I'm excited to get out there. I won't have any distractions. I'll be really focused. It's going to be a big test. I like having pressure on me. It makes me work harder."