The old saying is “The stopwatch and the tape measure don’t lie.”
However, when it comes to jumping, it often takes more than the tale of the tape to separate the state’s best.
A quick glance at this week’s track and field leaders indicates a log jam in most of the high-jump events.
In Class B girls, there are 17 athletes, all within two inches of each other, fighting for the top spot. In Class B Boys, there are 10 athletes tied for eighth. And in Class A girls, there are six competitors tied for third, with 11 more athletes just two inches or less behind them trying to get into the leaders.
“It really just depends on the day,” said Kristi Pond of Ipswich, among the 11 girls tied for seventh in Class B, “and anyone can have a good day or a bad day.”
Unlike most other events where athletes get one chance in a race or three chances in a throw, high jumpers get three chances to clear each height and can keep going as long as they keep making it. Places are often determined by who clears the bar first.
“I think it takes just getting your jump on the first try,” said Aberdeen Central’s Alexis Clark, “just getting it right off the bat. It puts you higher than everyone else.”
Clark is currently tied for first in Class AA at 5-feet, 7-inches. The junior started off the season with a bang by becoming the only high school girl in the state to ever clear 5-11. That took place indoors.
“I think it pushes me to try and get it again,” Clark said of that school-record jump. “I know I can. My legs were really fresh at the beginning of the season. They’re getting not-so-fresh anymore.”
A standout jumper can sometimes get in the mind of the competition.
Pond has tried to channel those emotions into something positive when she faces an elite opponent.
“I have learned to watch a good jumper and focus on what I need to do to look like that jumper,” Pond said.
Pond understands how important it is to clear a height on the first attempt, in case the competition does end in a tie. The sophomore said she has been involved in those situations before and even had a place determined on a coin flip.
Oftentimes, the top jumpers will pass on opening heights and wait until the bar gets higher to start the competition.
That is a strategy that Clark employs to save some wear and tear on her body.
“Once you go too low, you start out early and your legs will get tired the higher you go,” Clark pointed out.
Whatever the philosophy, the upcoming state meet looks to be an adventure for a group of contestants who on paper have very similar talents and abilities.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Pond said of the prospects. “You know I’m only a couple of inches away from these girls that are jumping 5-1.”
Of course, there is also the flip side of that coin.
“I could be 17th and have a great jump,” Pond noted. “It just really depends on the day.”