High jumpers push bar for track

Rachel Gallander competes in the high jump field event during a track meet earlier this season. (Laura Coleman Photo)

Rachel Gallander competes in the high jump field event during a track meet earlier this season. (Laura Coleman Photo)


During track season, runners, sprinters and relays tend to get all the focus and spectators during meets.

But in order for a team to win a track meet, they need to get points from field events also.

One of those events is the high jump, which is probably the most complex of the field events, requiring participants to contort themselves over a horizontal bar.

“There’s not a lot of people who watch (high jump), but when they do come over, but whenever they do watch it, they find it really interesting because… I don’t know how to explain it,” said sophomore high jumper Ashlee Perkkio.

In super simple terms, a horizontal bar is set anywhere from four to five feet off the ground at the edge of a mat. The goal of competitors is to jump over the bar head first, with their back to the bar, without dislodging it.

Sounds easy, right?

“The biggest challenge is probably the technique and the mental part of it because you have to be mentally prepared to get over your best height,” said defending district champion high jumper Rachel Gallander.

“It was pretty difficult at first and I couldn’t really understand the concept, but after a while it just became easier.”

Gallander, who has been jumping with Perkkio since the seventh grade, came in and won the high jump as a freshman last year.

“It was my first high jump district meet and it just felt good to be able to do that as a freshman and it was an experience,” she said.

While learning what the high jump was and how to execute a successful leap was not an overnight task, both jumpers have practiced enough to be comfortable with the event.

“You get into a rhythm and you know what you have to do and then you try and get better at certain things and it all just comes together in the end,” Gallander said.

“You usually just have to work on your technique and having a good vertical and make sure your strides are right, your steps are right, you’re where you need to be at.”

Focus is also a huge part in a clean jump.

“The most difficult part for me it’s kicking my feet, and whenever they move the bar higher, and then say the height, I always pysch myself out. It’s only two inches that they go up by, but two inches is a lot. That gets me every single time,” Perkkio said.

“I focus on whatever’s behind the mat, so I get my mom to stand behind the mat because whenever you’re going over (the bar) you have to kick your feet over, so if you have a focal point, it’s easier to kick your feet over. That’s the hardest part is kicking your feet, but not kicking the bar with them.

“So I always ask my mom to stand behind the pit so I can look at her. That always helps me get over. Also, I count sheep whenever I’m running up to a jump. It’s just something that keeps my nerves down, so I’m not as nervous when I jump.”

In a meet, jumpers have three opportunities to clear a height cleanly to advance to the next higher height, usually in two-inch increments, so landing a new height is an accomplishment.

“It feels good to clear a height, because when you’re jumping, you don’t know if you’ve actually cleared it yet or not until you actually land, and when you see that you did, it feels great,” Gallander said.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been jumping what I’ve been jumping since last year. I haven’t had that 5”2’, 5”4’ yet, but I’m hoping I’ll get it,” Perkkio said.

“Whenever you do get it, it’s amazing and then you can brag about it. People forget that high jump is a sport. People think about track as running, so they forget about the field events sometimes.”