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Soaring through the air

Stanislaus long jumpers hoping to land at nationals

Soaring through the air

Rio Schwalbach is one of the Cal State Stanislaus jumpers who are constantly trying to perfect their long jumps.


POSTED April 29, 2011 10:16 p.m.

Luther Bell has always been known as a leaper. This skill helped during his basketball days at Granite Hills High in Apple Valley, and caught the attention of the school’s track coach, who approached him with a unique proposition.

“Come dunk the ball in track,” the coach said.

That was enough for Bell, the Cal State Stanislaus junior long jumper who is now on the verge of eclipsing a provisional national qualifying mark — meaning he’ll be in good position to compete in front of a home crowd in this year’s NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships on May 26-28 at Warrior Stadium on the Stanislaus campus. He has already notched 23 feet, 3 1/2 inches, just 2 inches from qualifying.

“I know it’s coming,” Bell said. “I’m close. I know it’s discouraging being so close, but I know it’s coming soon. I can feel it.”

Like his Stanislaus teammates, he’s constantly working on improving his mark. The long jump looks simple enough, as all it consists of is a long runway and a sandpit with the main objective being this: jump as far as you can. But it’s not that easy for such Warriors as Bell and Nyesa Enakaya, who are aiming to land a spot at their level’s biggest stage: the national meet.

For Bell, he starts his run at 106 feet. He looks beyond the sandpit, usually at the top of a building or trees that are ahead. He does not focus on an 8-inch wide rectangular board sitting right before the sandpit. It’s kryptonite for most jumpers: If jumpers catch themselves looking at the board, it means they’ve lost focus and are too concerned about not messing up.

A scratch can take place.

So Bell just looks straight ahead. He takes three shoulder shrugs, puts his left foot forward and then he skips. He skips from his left foot to his right and back to left … and then sprints. He’s determined to gain as much momentum as possible while counting the correct amount of steps he needs to take. After that, he hopes to get as close to the board as possible before taking that leap.

Once he’s in the air, he tries to get his feet underneath his upper torso, and then he kicks his legs out. This is where all the abdominal workouts come into action. Kicking his legs out could mean an extra few inches to his distance.

And then, he does it over again.

Stanislaus coach Geoff Bradshaw has been working since the summer to help Bell improve his jump, in hopes of achieving a provisional mark.

“The hardest part for people is to have consistency with the approach and the landing technique,” Bradshaw said. “We stress the landing technique because that’s the best place you can increase your distance.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

 

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