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Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Prep Flashback: Noji defied stereotypes, raised high-jump bar

Athlete: Rick Noji, Franklin, class of 1985

Sport: Track and field

High-school rewind: Noji dominated the high jump, winning two state titles and raising the bar on the state record. His jump of 7 feet, 4 inches as a junior at the 1984 Metro League championships is still a state record, and Noji owns the top six marks in state history. As a senior, he won state titles in the high jump, long jump and 200 meters.

After high school: Noji had an All-American high-jump career at Washington, winning a Pac-10 title in 1990. He finished third at the NCAA outdoor championships in 1990 and second at the NCAA indoors in 1987. He was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1999.

Noji competed for the U.S. at three World Championships. He retired in 1996 after the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The 5-foot-8 Noji's best jump of 7-7 is the second best in history in relation to height over head.

After athletics: After failing to make the 1996 Olympic team, he hung up his spikes and went to work at the family business, Columbia Greenhouse.

After his family sold the business in 2002, Noji invested in Compass Communications, which a year and a half later was sold to Fiber Cloud, a Seattle-based internet company. Noji is a contracts and finance manager for Fiber Cloud.

Personal: Noji, 38, is divorced and lives in West Seattle.

Fast forward: Ten years removed from competition, he still misses the sensation of soaring over the bar.

"I just love jumping over the bar," said Noji, who believes he could still clear 6-8. "I think that if I didn't have to practice and I could just go out and jump that I still would."

In track and field, Noji stuck out for two reasons, his height and his ethnicity. But he took pride in being different on both accounts.

"I was proud to be representing Asians in a place where there weren't a lot of us," said Noji, who is of Japanese descent.

As for being the little guy?

"It was always fun," he said. "I thrived off of that. It was definitely a challenge being the smallest guy out there. The bigger guys, they didn't want to get beat by me. I loved that challenge."

John Boyle

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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