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High jumper Josie Morales mid-leap at an April 14 Dual Meet against Ventura High School.

High jumper Josie Morales mid-leap at an April 14 Dual Meet against Ventura High School.

Photo credit: Devon Byers

Photo credit: Devon Byers

High jumper Josie Morales mid-leap at an April 14 Dual Meet against Ventura High School.

By Jean-Michel Ricard, News Editor

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Standing on the track of the Arcadia Invitational Track Meet, Dos Pueblos High School sophomore high jumper Josie Morales could not have been more nervous. This meet was among the more prestigious, requiring a coach’s recommendation to enter and attracting competitors from across the US, all of whom looked so much more experienced and intimidating than her. To make matters worse, her attempt to boost her confidence with a few practice jumps fell flat on its face when she failed to clear a single height.

Now with all this on her back, Morales just hoped that she could clear the minimum 5-foot-2 jump. Maybe she could match her personal record of 5-foot-4, but that felt like a big maybe.

By the end of the event, she cleared every jump up to 5-foot-6 to shatter her personal record and win her category.

“It was a good day for high jump,” said a beaming Morales, still sounding a little surprised at the outcome.

Funnily enough, high jumping was never really a huge passion for Morales. Coming into high school all she was certain of was that she didn’t want to play off-season soccer. Morales hadn’t done track since elementary school, but her friend Adria Jamieson joined the track team so it seemed like as good a way to stay in shape as any.

The turnabout came at the very first track meet, “The Icebreaker”, held against Bishop Diego High School. When both schools arrived the coach found out that they were short a few athletes for the women’s high jump, but luckily Jamieson stepped up to the plate and took one for the team.

“My friend was just like: ‘She’s going to do it!’” said Morales. “So I just kind of went into it not knowing.”

Despite being caught flat-footed Morales cleared up to a relatively modest but still impressive 4-foot-10, winning the contest and, apparently, sealing the deal. By midseason she cleared five feet, and she only improved from then on. When Morales’ next season rolled around, track had become more than just an escape from the ignominy of off-season soccer.

“I wanted to improve on my high jump because last year I didn’t really end on a good note,” speaking of a no-heighter she suffered at last year’s CIF Master’s Meet. “I kind of wanted to have another chance”.

Paul Fry, Morales’ high jump coach, said that in addition to her “incredible” natural talent and stride length the main reason for Morales’ win at Arcadia was a growth in her confidence.

“If you are a ninth-grader who has never done this before, it’s easy to look around and go ‘Who the heck am I?’ And she was successful despite that last year and when she was at Arcadia,” said Fry. “She is an elite jumper and belongs in that spirit.”

Not content to call this record a victory and rest on her laurels, Morales says she will be trying to top her jump in the coming meets.

“I attempted 5’7 at a Ventura dual meet two weeks ago, and I was close” said Morales. “I’m hoping to top it if I qualify for any of the CIF meets. [I’ll] maybe get 5’7 or even 5’8 if I can.”

If Morales keeps improving, she may just ride through the coming track meets all the way to State finals, where the competition averages at around 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10.

If Morales has any doubts about her readiness, Fry has no such reservations.

“This year we’re not expecting, but we’re anticipating that she’s going to be successful at masters and move on to the highest level,” said Fry. “But honestly she’s already competed at a higher level than that at Arcadia.”

While Morales still says that 5-foot-10 is a bit of a stretch for the season, 5-foot-8 is now in her sights.

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High-Score High Jump