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A Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away
“Today's your day girl! Triple jump girls I want you warming up. Do some bounding on the grass while you wait to sign in.” I didn't want to do bounding to warm up because I knew it would tire me out. My eyes met those of my three fellow triple jump girls and we all sighed in agreement. We all wanted to save our energy and I needed to qualify. It was all I could think about. I had to jump twenty nine feet and six inches to qualify for the state meet. The sun was bright in the cloudless sky as I looked down the runway to the sand-filled jump pit. Sounds of feet pounding on the track and cheers filled the air. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine it; the perfect jump. I had learned this event a month earlier but I wish I had more experience. It's so much more than a hop, skip, and a jump. It's a take off.
The announcer's voice boomed, “This is the third and final call for girl’s triple jump. All triple jump girls please report to the jump pit to sign in now.” About eight or nine girls meandered down to the pit where two boys had a clip board and a measuring tape.
“Audrey Pirog, Brattleboro.” I responded when the boy asked me my name and school. “Oh, and I'm going from the second board.” It was twenty six inches from the pit, which would hopefully get me a few feet in. I checked out the competition seeing who had the longest legs or greatest muscle tone. My legs were still aching a little from the 100 meter hurdles. They began to call the names so and so is up, someone else is on deck, and another was in the hole. I stretched out my quads feeling the lump in my left leg, the remnants of a pulled quad. When I heard that I was 'in the hole', I began to feel the nerves. What if I didn't make it? This was the last meet to qualify at and I had three jumps to do it. I bounced on my toes as I watched the girls before me jump. Analyzing their form, you could see whose second faze was chopped or if they didn't have enough momentum from the board. Finally I was up; I stepped onto the run way and found my chalk mark. I moved my foot back about two inches as a safety precaution. If your foot was over the board it was an automatic foul and a waste of a jump. Steadying myself, I narrowed my eyes and took a deep breath. Pushing off of my back foot, I lunged forward into a sprint. One, two, three, four, five, and by six strides I was on the board. The actual jump is hard to remember; a one legged hop, a skip and a long jump into the hot sandy pit. A long breath escaped me as I stepped forward out of my pit and waited to hear my measurement.
“Twenty eight feet, five and a half inches,” called the boy with the clip board. I brushed the sand from my legs and faced my coach.
“That was a good jump, but you’re over thinking it girl. You gotta loosen up, there's too much tension.” His positive words were not much consolation. I walked down the runway to be met by another one of my coaches, Paula.
“Jay was telling me you’re too tense,” I met her sky blue eyes and was thankful for her kind face. “I want you to try something, all right? Where is a relaxing place for you?”
“In the water I guess. Swimming.” It was the first thing that came to mind and I didn't realize how silly it must sound.
“Perfect,” she responded. “Right before you jump, I want you to imagine that you’re in the water, just floating and relaxing with the sun shining down on you. All right?”
“Okay.” I agreed, smiling to ensure her I was in. I paced until my name was called again.
“Pirog, you’re up.” Once again, I stepped a little behind my mark, right foot forward. I closed my eyes and imagined the water running over me, soothing me. My muscles relaxed, and I exhaled as I pushed into take off. This sprint felt loose and free. When I took off of the second board, I was sure my first faze was to high, that my second was chopped, and my landing was not in any way good. I stood up, shaking off the sand and waited with my coach as the officials drew out the long measuring tape. The suspense was killing me and I could here my coach muttering, “Come on, come on.”
“Twenty-nine feet, ten inches.” I couldn't stop myself from screaming.
“YES!” I cried out jumping into the air. My coach was as ecstatic as I was as he gave me a high five that stung my hand. My teammates rushed to me, and soon I was encircled. It was a relief to finally have done it. My face ached from smiling but I knew I wouldn’t stop. I found Paula and ran to hug her. “Thank you, so much.” I told her.
“Thank the water, girl.” She smiled in return.