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Leap of faith

Triple jump takes commitment from start to finish

Leap of faith

In the triple jump, Cal State Stanislaus sophomore Rashee Dean has already achieved a provisional national qualifying mark for the chance of competing at next month's NCAA Division II Track & Field...

POSTED April 26, 2011 10:10 p.m.

The triple jump is an unorthodox track and field event. The concept isn’t very fluid. Almost everything an athlete does before he or she jumps into a sandpit looks strange, almost as if out of sync.

First, the athlete hops.

Then, the athlete commits to a giant step.

And finally, the athlete jumps into the air.

It’s all so unconventional, unlike the long jump, in which it’s a straight run before jumping. So, the triple jump is not an easy event to conquer, considering just one miscue during an attempt can influence a horrific turn of events. The jumper might stumble or is called for a scratch.

The triple jump is not one of those isolated events like the 100-meter dash, where the pop of the gun is usually enough to draw the attention of the crowd. Like the other field events, the triple jump happens during other events. But it’s one to watch — and track and field fans will have an opportunity to observe the country’s best triple jumpers at the NCAA Division II Championships on May 26-28 at the Al Brenda Track at Warrior Stadium on the Cal State Stanislaus campus.

It’s a must-watch event because of all the different approaches athletes have.

“Everybody’s triple jump is different,” said Stanislaus sophomore triple jumper Rashee Dean, a Delhi High graduate who set a national provisional qualifying mark of 49 2 1/2 feet earlier this season. “Some people are aggressors, so their triple jump is more aggressive, and you can see it. Some people are graceful and they seem more afloat when they jump.

“For me, it’s always been graceful.”

Dean’s first-ever triple jump was during his first year at Livingston High. He notched a distance of 42 feet. He had no idea that was an impressive mark.

“After that first triple jump,” he said, “my coach was thrilled. Me not knowing what a great mark was, I thought it was a regular jump.”

He’s never been a regular triple jumper. Dean understands the event now, focusing on three phases: the hop, skip and jump. For him, he tries to maintain his control during the first 17-18 feet, build speed in the following 14-15 feet and then stay relax and calm in the final 18-20 feet before he leaps into the air, trying to avoid a scratch and the first few feet of the sandpit as much as possible.

At this point, however, Dean is hurt. He’s going through physical therapy and hopes to return after the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, which will be held at Stanislaus on May 5-7. His best mark this season is good enough for eighth in the nation.

He’s looking forward to returning.

For Rio Schwalbach, a sophomore from Atwater’s Buhach Colony High, the triple jump is an event that has been part of her life since the third grade. It started out confusing, she said. But she gradually picked up the technique and learned to maintain her balance throughout an attempt.

“The key is to try to have fun,” she said. “If you try too hard, that’s when you do badly. When you’re relaxed is when you do your best. The key is to stay relaxed.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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