After getting a new PB of 6.75 in his long jump, my son plateaued a bit. It’s to be expected. You can’t get a PB every single time you compete.
He’d reached and exceed the qualifying standard of 6.70 for English Schools nationals, but he also needed to be in the top 16. When he jumped 6.75, he was in the top 16. But every weekend he slipped down a little bit, because everyone around him was competing and improving too.
Two weeks after the 6.75, he had two competitions in the same weekend. In anyone’s book, that isn’t a good idea. But he accepted that he wouldn’t do well in the second one. It was for the YDL, which is the club competition, competing against clubs in the same area of a similar standard. He knew he didn’t need to do well to win that for the club. So he figured he can just go along, do it and win it with a short jump.
At the first competition of the weekend, he jumped 6.57. Still very good. Still the winner for his own age category by some considerable distance, but not getting him any closer to English Schools nationals.
Strangely, at the second competition of the weekend, his best jump was 6.61 – slightly better, but still not good enough for what he wanted to achieve.
But I have to remind him (and myself) that by anyone’s standards, his jumps are very, very good. People gasp when he jumps. I was talking to a dad whose son is a year older than my son and desperate to hit 6 metres for the first time. My son hit 6 metres in year 10, at the age of 15. I’m pleased for this boy and his dad that he did hit 6 metres. They were over the moon, while my son was disappointed by 6.61. These things are all relative.
We realised that my son’s baseline jump was around 6.40. That was the distance of most of his jumps in a competition, then he just did one or two that were better.
He needed to raise the baseline to 6.60 and do a couple of jumps which were 20 or 25cm further than that.
The following weekend he did face-to-face training with the England Athletics Youth Talent Programme for the first time. They didn’t even do full jumps. But did something he learned there help him? Or was it just luck and timing?
On 12th June in Nuneaton, the town where my parents grew up, met and married (on the 12th June 1971!), everything came together for my son.
His first jump was 6.71 – a strong start, his second best jump ever. Then he slipped back to 6.61. But this was his baseline. He’d raised the baseline 20cm, just as we hoped he would.
His jumps weren’t perfect. Sometimes he pulled his run-up short at the board. Once he jumped way before the board. If he sorted that out, he’d get 6.90.
After a 6.70, it all came together on his fourth jump – a 6.79. And still the jump wasn’t perfect. On his 6th and final jump, he nailed it – 6.83.
It’s only 8cm, but that’s where he needed to be. It’s pulled him a little bit further out of the pack and up the rankings. He’s comfortably inside the top 16 now. The cut-off date for English Schools qualification is 22nd June, so there’s not much chance for people to overtake him. And the reality is that the people who jump further than him are probably the ones who are above him anyway, so that won’t make a difference to his position.
He’s got one more competition before qualifying and it’s likely everyone else has too. Keep your fingers crossed that my son makes it to English Schools. He’s worked so hard for it.