DES MOINES - The speed, power and talent, they're always present. It's the technique that has sometimes eluded Keagan Parks.
Still a relative newcomer to the long jump competition - the Webster City senior is yet to leap in double-digit meets in his career - Parks went out and proved he's one of the state's stars yesterday on a picturesque day at the Drake Relays inside Drake Stadium.
DFJ photo by Mark Pawlak
WCHS senior Keagan Parks explodes into the sand during yesterday’s long jump competition at the Drake Relays in Des Moines. He placed sixth.
Parks reached 22 feet, 3.50 inches on his second jump of the competition - it was the first time he ever broke the 22-foot threshold - and it was good enough to place sixth and earn him a medal in the field of the state's elite.
And the key: finally getting his steps correct and taking off on the board, rather than a foot or two behind it.
"(WCHS head coach Tony) Bussan kept telling me that if I was on the board I would be a 22-foot jumper and I finally got there, so that feels good," Parks, who was seventh at last spring's Class 3A state meet, said. "I'm just glad he's teaching me and it feels great to be a Drake medal winner."
Parks' first jump measured 21-10, and his third was 21-6. He sat in the top spot after the first flight and was third overall heading into the finals.
A sore quad muscle in his right leg forced him to pass on all three of his finals jumps, and it's a decision that Bussan supported considering Parks will run the 100-meter dash this morning and the 4x100 relay later this evening.
"With the sore quad, we just decided it wasn't worth the risk to keep going and he'd take whatever his (22-3.50) would get," Bussan said. "He handled the entire competition very well and had great focus."
Parks - the top finisher outside of the state's largest class - says yesterday's accomplishment only adds to his confidence as he gets set to enter the 100 - an event he ran at Drake last year.
"The sore quad won't stop me from running (today)," he said. "I'm going against some pretty fast kids, but I'm pumped."
Northeast Hamilton senior Marcus Mechaelsen was also in yesterday's long jump field, and he was forced to deal with an injury as well.
Mechaelsen took just two jumps and pulled out with a lingering hamstring ailment that kept him off the track for several weeks this month. He was 23rd overall with a best leap of 19-7.25.
Darius Pearson of Sioux City West captured the gold medal with a leap of 22-11.50.
Today will be a busy day on and around the blue oval for the Lynx. Senior Andrew May will compete in the 110 high hurdles and freshman Cal Zahn will be involved in the high jump. They'll join Parks and junior Nathan Nuehring on the 4x100.