Emerald Ridge High junior Audrey Fernandez spent last year working very hard for that extra inch.
With a crowded field in the Class 4A long jump and triple jump events, Fernandez knew she would need every bit of distance to have a shot at a placement at the state meet this year.
“I worked so hard during the off-season with my club team so I could improve myself and to beat my personal best (results),” Fernandez said. “It was a lot of work (and) a lot of days jumping.”
Fernandez didn’t just gain an inch — she added two. Fernandez has improved both her long jump (17 feet, 9 1/2 inches) and triple jump (36-6) marks. Both jumps came April 30 at the 40th annual Lake Washington Girls Invite.
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Her best marks as a sophomore were 15-11 1/2 in the long jump and 34-6 3/4.
The work and effort Fernandez put in is now behind the junior. What’s in front of her is perhaps the toughest challenge of all: the West Central District meet this weekend at French Field in Kent.
Ahead of her are the classification’s top long jumper’s in Rogers’ Jelani Heath (19-5 1/4), Kentridge’s Lauryn Ford (18-4 1/2) and Kentwood’s Brittany Woke (18-4).
“It’s a tough competition for sure, but it’s good to have girls push you,” Fernandez said.
No person pushes Fernandez more than Rogers’ Heath. For years the two have shared a rivalry and a friendship on the track. And for years, it was Heath’s ability to out-leap everyone else that led Fernandez to place the Rams’ long jumper in her sights.
“She’s always been a motivator for me because of her skills,” Fernandez said of Heath. “We’re good friends, but seeing the way she’s jumping gets you excited to compete against someone like her.”
Heath ranks No. 1 in the state in the long jump in all classifications.
All the work, all the time spent on in the pit, and even all the times Fernandez has come up short has motivated the young athlete.
“I feel I’m right there in reaching 18 feet,” Fernandez said. “By the time I’m done here at ER, I want to be at 19 or more.”