Young high jumper makes national Jr. Olympics

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 05:41 PM

Chelan Stanford hasn't been competing in the high jump for very long. It's been long enough though for Stanford, 11, to want to work hard and it and to earn a spot into the USATF (USA Track and Field) National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.

Stanford, of Sanford and of Sandhills Track Club, finished second, with a top jump of 4-feet-5, at the USATF Region 16 Junior Olympics Championships last month in Greensboro to qualify for the national Junior Olympics, also to be held at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, later this month.

Joining Sandhills Track Club, along with going to camps and taking on a whole range of new events, have made for a busy season.

Stanford competed in the long jump, finishing with a mark of 12-feet-11.5 and in 12th place, and pentathlon. It was her first time trying the pentathlon and, aside from the feat of simply doing and completing each of the five events - 80-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump and 800 meters - Stanford finished fourth in the region. Within the pentathlon, Stanford was trying the hurdles and 800 meters for the first time in any meet.

"I finished sixth," she said about the 800, "but it felt like I was about to die. It's a really long run."

A couple of days later at the regional meet, Stanford's result in the 11-12 year-old high jump qualified her for the Junior Olympics but it wasn't her personal best. She's topped 4-feet-6 in a meet before and 4-feet-8 in a camp at North Carolina St.

She also attended a camp at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"At both camps she was the youngest," said Chelan's mother Sasha.

Learning alongside mostly high-school age jumpers helped a great deal, as did besting some of the older athletes.

Club practices have been valuable. Chelan hadn't tried the high jump, and the necessary Fosbury Flop, until moving up from Lee County Parks and Recreation's track and field program to a club organization. At first glance, propelling oneself head and back first over the bar to land facing up on the pad seems as it would always start out dangerous for a high jump newcomer.

"The first time she tried (the flop), it looked like she'd been doing it for awhile already," said Sasha, herself a track athlete when younger, although in the long jump and not the high jump.

"I'm doing the flop pretty well," Chelan said. "I still need help lifting my arm up, and I need to get my knee up. I'm still working on it."

"She looks like a natural," her mom said. "The camps really helped."

Going back before camps, USATF meets and Lee County events, Chelan can trace where the natural ability probably comes from.

"My older brother, Cole, taught me how to do the broad jump and long jump. He helps me with all my sports," Chelan said.

"I go to his football games and he goes to my track meets," she said.

Some of the best practicing was about as unofficial as it gets.

"At the Boys and Girls Club we were always playing Jump the Creek," said Chelan.

Technique and coaching helps as well.

Long distance running and sprinting are as much of practice for a jumper as the actual jumping, Chelan says.

Practicing with "the box" is part of workouts. High and long jumpers use a wooden box to leap, and get more spring, off of, to work on technique and form. In the case of a high jump, more height means worrying more about correct form and less about clearing the bar.

Finishing high at the Junior Olympics is an immediate goal for Chelan. A long-term dream is a college scholarship via track and field. Being the best jumper in the family probably falls somewhere in between. Mom's best long jump was 18-feet-2.

"So my goal is to get past 18-2," Chelan said.

The USATF Junior Olympics will be the week of July 22-28 at North Carolina A&T with the girls 11-12 high jump set for the last day of the Olympics.