Jumper draws crowd to FHSU
By CONOR NICHOLL
Josh Honeycutt, the No. 10 outdoor triple jumper in the world for 2014, has loved Hays since he arrived last fall. He has worked at the library, assisted with the Fort Hays State University jumpers and made a positive impact with kids and college students.
On Wednesday, the community showed that love, too. Honeycutt designed a meet at FHSU, his final competition before the USA outdoor track and field championships in Sacramento on June 26-29. His ultimate goal is the Olympic team in 2016.
More than 100 people, including members of the Hays Striders, colleagues at the library and Fort Hays, and community members, lined the pits at Lewis Field Stadium.
Honeycutt, who also jumped with several Tiger athletes, jumped five times. He fouled once and had a best mark of 16.36 meters (53 feet, 8 inches), off his personal best of 16.83 meters set in May.
"Just seeing the community out here, it was awesome," Honeycutt, wearing his normal smile, said. "Even if I didn't jump as far as I wanted to, just having these people encourage me, just wants me to keep on progressing."
Multiple friends brought signs, including "Good luck Josh," and "Jump for Josh." Honeycutt normally competes in meets Friday or Saturday and decided to schedule this meet just a couple days ago.
After the meet, Honeycutt's fiancÃ©, Jennifer Robinson, had everyone in attendance gather for a photo on the runway and sand. Honeycutt posed for photographs afterward, and signed some autographs.
"When people come out, that just shows you the community of Hays and how strong and tight-knit they are to support," said Honeycutt, an Iola native. "I am not even a native, and they came out and supported me. That really hits home, because I am a Kansas boy. I know about that hometown feeling, that hometown cooking. It's just a good feeling to know that you have support around you."
He wanted to jump further, but dealt with some swirling winds, including a crosswind.
"I am proud of how I competed today, and the elements that I competed in," he said.
Honeycutt rarely had a tailwind, which would have helped him hit a bigger mark.
"He is nowhere near his peak right now," said Ty Haas, FHSU's jumps coach and one of Honeycutt's coaches. "Obviously, we don't want to be there. But from a technical standpoint, the foul that he hit was the best jump."
At 6:11 p.m., Honeycutt stepped on the runway for the first time. He wanted the pre-jump clap from the audience -- and received it, along with cheers of "Let's Go Josh!" Honeycutt went 16.23 meters on his first attempt. He had the clap again before his second and jumped 15.58 meters.
"I think it's good for especially the Hays Striders, the younger kids, to see the energy in track," Honeycutt said. "Sometimes people see track meets, and it's boring. The crowd is not interacting. I want to show that track can be just as exciting as football, basketball and baseball."
On his third attempt, Honeycutt went without the clap, unleashed a big mark, but fouled. He finished with 16.12 meters on his fourth jump, passed on his fifth (it's common for elite athletes to pass at least once in competition), and then, with the clap going again, went 16.36 on his last mark.
Haas was pleased Honeycutt was consistently clearing 16.2, 16.3 meters and fouling just once. Some of the recent training and changes have helped Honeycutt foul less.
"Sometimes he will rock back a little bit when he jumps," Haas said. "You lose your posture there, and it kind of hurts you a little bit. He was a lot more active I thought on his last one, trusted his run, and hit it. Those are good marks for right now."
At 6:39 p.m., Honeycutt told the audience, "Thanks for everyone coming out," before the photos were taken.
"The last jump, I really felt amped up," Honeycutt said. "I really wanted to get myself pumped up. Other jumps, I needed to focus, I got too amped up, I think .... (The clap) just comes with it. Once you go to like the professional realms, it happens all the time."
Note -- On June 24, Honeycutt, through the library, will host a training for middle and high school students in the morning. Honeycutt said the signup is free.