Track preview 2013 .. Pair of jumpers represent Victoria
By CONOR NICHOLL
Six years ago, Victoria High School track and field coach Randy Stanley had a freshman named Taylor Kisner. Throughout the school year, the bubbly, gregarious Kisner often came up to Stanley and said, "I can't wait for track, I can't wait for track."
Kisner eventually qualified for state all four years, helped the Knights collect a team title as a junior and scored 38 points as a senior on a runner-up squad.
This spring, Stanley has a similar talent and personality in freshman Jayden Newbold, a move-in from Inman. Newbold loves track, wears a perpetual smile, and knows all about Kisner.
"She looks like a little freshman Taylor Kisner, and that's a good thing," Stanley said.
As of the 1A regional last Friday, Newbold had yet to meet Kisner in person, but was good friends with her brother. Newbold participates in the sprints and long jump, the same events Kisner did.
"She is my idol," Newbold said.
Newbold and junior Connor Gagnon each lept their personal bests in the long jump last week and qualified for the state meet, the Knights' lone two qualifiers.
Newbold is seeded sixth at 16-2.25, while Gagnon went 21-5 and is ranked third in the long jump. Newbold had her personal best by a couple inches, while Gagnon's season-best in 19-8 and his all-time mark was 20 feet.
"That jump, I wasn't expecting it at all," Gagnon, who qualified in the 1,600-meter relay as a freshman and was fifth in long jump at regionals last year, said.
Gagnon had to jump against a stacked field that included La Crosse senior Levi Morss, the defending state champion. The four qualifying jumpers from the Fort Hays regional are all ranked in the top-seven entering state. Gagnon was on the bubble for qualifying for finals after his first leap.
Then, Gagnon scratched his second. On his third, he hit the board perfectly. Gagnon felt "pretty good" on the leap, but scraped his leg "pretty bad." He wasn't expecting 21-5. However, they announced the mark and Gagnon's grandfather yelled in excitement.
"That got me excited," Gagnon said. "It was fun."
Newbold has loved track since her first meet as a sixth grader. Long jump is her favorite event. This year, she moved from Inman when her dad accepted a higher-paying farming job. Stanley didn't know anything about Newbold, but quickly discovered she loved track.
Newbold played basketball and the coaches told Stanley she was pretty quick on the floor. Stanley hoped that would translate to the spring. At the start of the year, Newbold showed promise, but often missed the long jump board. Stanley worked with her on short approaches, especially when the Knights had to be indoors because of weather, and staying consistent on the board.
"She is so excitable, and she would come in and she would be over the board by two feet," Stanley said.
At regionals, Newbold was sitting fifth entering finals. Between prelims and finals, Stanley told Newbold to move her step in four inches. Stanley said Newbold might scratch, or it might work. Newbold remained fifth after her fourth jump. On her fifth attempt, she, relaxed, took a deep breath, and went 16 feet to move into third.
"For the first jumps, I had not been able to reach, so I really wanted to focus on reaching and bringing my feet up there and just flying, bringing your head up and just like float through the sand," Newbold said.
Newbold paused again before her last attempt and took a deep breath.
"Have a really bad habit of getting excited when I jump, so I always do that to calm myself down before I jump," she said.
Then she went 16-2.25 on her final leap to secure the state berth. Afterward, Newbold again wore a big smile, a result and look reminiscent of Kisner's.