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Track and field has ups and downs
Track and field has ups and downs
By STEVE NOVAK
For those on track teams who choose to do something besides run, there is what can be called the lift and the leap work.
In the lift category, there is the shot put and the discus. Those who choose to leap can fly through the air an assortment of ways with the pole vault, the high jump and the long jump.
Those who choose these other jobs are in the field category of track and field. They all have reason why they chose the jobs that try to defy gravity by throwing or jumping.
Long jump, high jump
In the leap category, one of the jobs is long jumping. Orange High School junior Adah Zhang said that she began long jumping five years ago, when she was in junior high school.
"I don't like just running in a straight line. I want to have some incentive for running," she said. "I like to incorporate my running with other things to do."
Zhang's explanation fits with the requirement of the long jump. There is the first step of the running approach, followed by the jump right before the beginning of the landing pit.
Zhang has a personal best effort of 15 feet, 5 1/2 inches. The jump won her first place in the Trinity Invitational. Her jumping also helped the Orange girls' team to win the Cuyahoga Invitational, the first major invitational the Orange girls' have won in six years.
Another event in the leaping category is the high jump. In this case, the athlete has a short run approach and then tries for as much vertical height as possible.
Ed Crotty, of University School, and Katie Wilson, of Hawken, both have been high jumping for a number of years.
Crotty, a sophomore, said he began high jumping in junior high school by pure coincidence.
"It was an accident, really. I was supposed to be running in one of the events, but the high jump bar was off where we practicing," he said. "I thought I could jump it, so I tried."
Crotty said the bar was around 4-foot- high, but he did well enough on his first few tries that he continued through the rest of the season.
He jumped 4 feet and 4 inches that season, and now as a sophomore, he has cleared 5 feet, 8 inches. He has three second-place finishes in dual meets, and he said that he wants to try to clear 5 feet, 10 inches by the end of the season.
Wilson, a junior, said she began high jumping when she was in seventh grade. She had watched her older sister run the hurdles, but she decided to try an event which emphasized jumping.
As a sophomore at Hawken, Wilson's best jump was 5 feet, 1 inch. During the indoor season in 2010, she won one of the final meets of the season with a jump of 5 feet. She has cleared 4 feet, 10 inches this season, but she's still recovering from minor knee injuries. She said she hopes to be in the 5-foot category later this season.
"You can tell you have a good jump quickly, just by how powerful your takeoff is," Wilson said. "In the takeoff, you have to have that power in your steps. You always stay positive and stay calm."
The other category of the jumping events is the pole vault. Chagrin Falls senior Ryan Kochert qualified for Division II state competition both as a sophomore and a junior. Last year, he finished 15th in the state meet with a jump of 13 feet.
The 13-foot effort is by no means his limit. In 2009, his best effort was 14 feet, and this season, he has recorded a jump of 14 feet, 2 inches.
Kochert's left knee was injured last winter during a wrestling match. He underwent meniscus surgery and had to wait three months before he could start getting back into shape for track.
He said that with an entire season of track and field ahead of him, and another possible appearance at state finals, he always maintained optimism while waiting to rehabilitate from knee surgery.
"There was never any doubt that I wasn't going to come back," he said. "I just couldn't wait to get back to vault."
Kochert also did the long jump last season, but so far both he and Chagrin Falls coach Dave Kirk agree that vaulting should be the priority because long jumping might put more stress on the knees.
Shot put, discus
In the lifting category of the field events, there is the shot put and the discus. Both events also involve several other skills.
Kenston junior Kim Gallavan has been throwing the shot put since seventh grade, but it wasn't until this season that she entered in the discus throw, also.
"I finally learned how to spin, and to throw it and to get it flat," she said. "Before that, I wasn't good at it."
Gallavan said throwing the discus simply has more steps required for performance. The athlete spins the body in a circle in order to gain momentum before releasing the discus.
Even though this is only her first year at the event, Gallavan had a best effort of 104 feet, 5 inches. The winning toss helped Kenston to finish second overall in the Kenston Co-ed Relays last month.
Since then, Gallavan has increased her distance to 109 feet, 10 inches in the discus in a dual meet against Kirtland. She has thrown the shot put 39 feet, 4 1/2 inches this season.
Jessi Genske, a sophomore shot putter at West Geauga, has a pedigree in the event. Her older sister was a varsity shot putter at Chardon. The family has since moved to Chester.
Genske said that even after watching her older sister throw, she was surprised the first time she tried to throw a shot put in junior high school. She said she "thought it would be more difficult."
However, she said it has taken three years beginning in junior high up through her sophomore year for her to finally master a technique which allows for consistent throws over 30 feet.
"With my coaching this year, I did a lot a lot of things differently," she said. "Now I can throw it a lot farther, and throw it quicker, too."
Her best effort this year is 34 feet, 7 1/2 inches.
At Gilmour Academy, senior Mary Kramer started throwing the discus at the suggestion of her coach, Jeff Klein.
"He told me I should try both the shot put and the discus," she said. "He convinced me to try. It just worked out better with the discus. I think it's more about the form of throwing it."
Now in her second varsity year of throwing the discus, Kramer let loose with her longest throw of her career at the Miele Invitational last month. Her throw of 100 feet and 5 inches was good for first place.
At Solon High School, junior A.J. Hicks is a double throw competitor. This season he has set records in both the shot put and the discus.
His best effort in the shot put is 58 feet, 5 inches. His high water mark in the discus is 177 feet, 8 inches.
Hicks said that he used to watch his older sister run track. While watching her run, he also couldn't help noticing the shots and discs flying through the air off to the side of the track. He's been doing both events at Solon since he was a freshman.
Hicks said that he tries to divide his practice sessions equally between the two events, although he admitted he does sometimes favor the discus. Last year, at the Division I state track meet, Hicks finished in sixth place with a toss of 163 feet, 3 inches.
Hicks said he feels he has to challenge himself every time he goes to a track meet. He's not satisfied just to be the holder of two school records.
"My goal is to be the best that I can, and to get to state finals," he said. "In the shot put, I want to get to where I can throw 60 feet."
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