GUYTON — The high jump is becoming one of the toughest field events as more and more high school athletes are nearing the seven-foot mark.
Stephen Kraeling, a junior from South Effingham has been inching toward that feat and this last weekend at the GHSA Class AAAAA track meet, Kraeling cleared 6-6 inches, finishing fourth and breaking his own record and the school’s yet again.
“It was very exciting,” Kraeling said. “This was my second year competing at the state meet. Last year, I placed fifth with a jump of 6-2. It is exciting to see the level of talent in our sport and how it is improving every year. It pushes me to train harder as I know it will be even better next year.
“I was also excited to see my teammates, Alex Brown and Cameron Edwards, competing there as well. We all train together and push each other to be better.”
Leading up to the big day, Kraeling put all his attention into brushing up on the basics. He tweaked a small portion of his routine along the way.
‘We focused on our form, approaches and penultimate step during practice,” Kraeling said. “I also had to make some adjustments to my football weights program. I appreciate all my coaches, both track and football, for supporting me and helping me prepare.”
Although Kraeling would have given anything to walk away with a first-place finish, he was pleased with solidifying his name in the record book for South Effingham.
“I have been chasing that record since I was a freshman,” Kraeling said. “In March at the Glynn Academy meet, I broke the (school) record with a jump of 6 -5. I have to admit I went crazy. Everything just came together that day and I will always remember it.
“I was competing against another jumper from Glynn Academy who was really good and I think it helped me. At the state meet, I was able to raise that record again.”
Kraeling knew what he was up against headed into the state meet. With Griffin having two jumpers clearing at least 6-8, Kraeling would have to have set a new personal mark to beat two of the state’s best competitors.
“I felt I would do well but the competition is getting better every year and you can’t take it for granted,” Kraeling said. “After the regional and sectional meets, I knew I would have to be at my best to place top five. In track and field, it doesn’t matter how you did the week before or all season. It matters right then, so that’s why we focus on the fundamentals to do as well as we can.”
Edwards finished 10th in the high jump, clearing six feet. Hans Ames finished 15th in the 3200 with a time of 10:37.
For the Lady Mustangs, Brown also took home a top-10 finish in the high jump, placing sixth and clearing five feet. Cheyenne Ryan (5:45) and Meghan Kilpatrick (5:47) went 15 and 16 in the 1600. Kilpatrick also finished 12th in the 3200 with a time of 12:41.