The students massaged the long jump pit with a few cursory swipes of the rake in the area 10 to 20 feet past the take-off line.
“Better do it some more,” said the woman who was keeping track of the various boys and girls jumping results Wednesday at the triangular meet at Nevada Union High School. “Mike is jumping next.”
The boys raked out another five feet farther, one of them leaning on his rake as NU’s Mike Davies eyed the runway. Davies took off in a measured sprint, his body a blur, all legs and arms. The 6-foot-1-inch senior hit the mark just right and caught air, landing a personal best 21 feet, one-half inch later.
“Where did that come from?” Davies said afterward, shaking his head, later adding, “Last year I was jumping in the 19s.”
If there is anything triple jump and long jump competitors don’t want to hear Davies say, it is words of wonder.
As a junior, Davies seemed to come out of nowhere in the triple jump, setting a school record with a leap of 45 feet, 11/4 inches late in the season. He then went on to win the sub-section and Sac-Joaquin section meet as well. At the state meet, Davies finished 12th.
“He has steadily improved on his jumps every year,” NU coach Sig Ostrom said. “We figure with the triple jump he is capable of adding a foot to last year’s record.”
Davies has already begun to chip away at that prospect. Twelve days ago at the Reed Sparks Invitational, Davies broke his own record in the triple jump with a leap of 45-53/4 inches. Though his long jump leap Wednesday was a personal best, it is still well shy of the school record of 22-3, set by Chuck Hollmer in 1951.
“Now it is more of a thing where I expect to go farther,” Davies said. “I want to go somewhere close to 47 feet in the triple jump. I don’t have any other goals than that, because that is the event I really want to concentrate on.”
Davies never expected to someday be talking about state meets and school records when he decided to go out for track and field as a freshman. At first, Davies thought perhaps he would benefit the team as a sprinter, but with a handful of his teammates now capable of running the 100 meters in under 11 seconds, he had to look elsewhere that freshman year, like the jumping pit.
“I originally came out for track to hang out with my friends,” Davies said. “I hadn’t even thought of it before that spring, but I turned out to be decent at it.”
Davies described his performance in the field events freshman year as mediocre, nothing that would hint at what would do as a sophomore. Fueled by a growth spurt, Davies leapt 41-7 his sophomore year, 18-9 in the long jump.
By junior season, his marks in the two jumping events and high jump had all made quantum leaps.
“(Davies) is one of those kids who truly understands his event,” Ostrom said. “He knows how to concentrate real well.”
Though Davies considers himself a natural at jumping, he is enough of a practitioner to spot flaws in technique, a crucial skill in the jump-hop-step process of the triple jump.
“Technically, the triple jump is more difficult and takes longer to master than just about any event out there,” Ostrom said. “It has more to do with strength than pure speed; most triple jumpers don’t do well in the middle phase because they go too far in the first phase.”
Friday’s 33-team Nevada Union Invitational begins the home stretch of the track season. With a weightlifting program to compliment his usual track workouts, Davies expects to be doing his best jumps when the post-season of sub-section, section and state meets begin in three weeks.
“It will be a little different this year,” Davies said. “I won’t be sneaking up on anybody. Defending (titles at sub-section and section meets) will be more pressure.”
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