t doesn’t take much to bribe Rogers High School’s Jelani Heath into greatness on the runway.
Just a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles.
“Best thing ever,” Heath said.
And Heath is quickly becoming one of the better long jumpers this state has seen in a while.
It might take some time for Heath, a junior, to chase down arguably the best in-state long jumper ever — Everett High School’s Sherron Walker, who holds the all-time mark of 21 feet, 3 inches, set in 1975.
In the meantime, Heath continues to truck along. She won the event Saturday at the rain-soaked Class 4A West Central/Southwest District championships at French Field in Kent.
Heath went 18-10, then shut it down for the rest of the afternoon. Next week will be a different matter at the Class 4A state championships at Mount Tahoma.
“Twenty feet is my goal for this year,” Heath said. “Blake Rosier, my best friend (and also a Rogers jumper on the boys side), said if I jumped 20 feet, he would buy me a doughnut every day for a year.”
It wasn’t until last season in basketball when Bailey Kapels, then an assistant coach for the varsity team, saw the vast potential in Heath as a track standout.
It was on a move to the basket as Heath soared over another girl guarding her.
“She laid it up over the girl,” Kapels said.
Kapels, the Rams’ jumping coach, spent the rest of the season trying to sell Heath on track. Last spring was her first season ever jumping.
Now Heath is in the weight room three days a week, and earlier this season, she went 19-1 1/2 at the Oregon Relays.
At last week’s SPSL sub-district meet, Heath set a personal-best mark of 19-5 1/4. She also went 19-4 and 19-1 the same day.
“It is confidence,” Kapels said. “And she’s been more consistent.”
Other developments Saturday:
▪ Kentridge’s Tanner Conner, the 4A leader in the 300 hurdles, spent a few nervous moments on the track after posting the top time at 38.34 seconds.
Coming down the stretch, he brushed the top of the hurdle with his leg, knocking it forward.
If the hurdle impedes another competitor, he could have been disqualified, but officials ruled it stayed within his lane.
“It was cold, and I wasn’t as flexible,” Conner said. “I just couldn’t get snap in my lead (leg).”
▪ Puyallup’s Rachel Kastama broke away from the girls 3,200 field early, and ran a personal-best time of 10:50.25. She has the second-fastest time in Class 4A behind Lake Stevens’ Taylor Roe (10:26.56).
And Kastama says she runs just fine by herself.
“It’s just fear. The fear of hearing, ‘tip, tip, tip (of footsteps)’ behind me,” Kastama said. “It is horrible, but fear helps me. It makes me want to go faster and be more determined.”
▪ Emerald Ridge’s Karlee Stueckle easily won the girls 300 hurdles in 44.47. She is expected to be a state contender next week at Mount Tahoma.
“I was a little concerned,” Stueckle said. “I haven’t run in the rain this year, and I didn’t know what it would be like. I made sure I qualified. On top of that, made sure I didn’t dog anything. It is a race.”
▪ Bellarmine Prep’s Jack Yearian won the boys 3,200. He broke away from the lead pack in the final turn of the seventh lap, and won in 9:17.98. Tahoma’s Graeme Schroeder was second at 9:21.37.
▪ Federal Way’s Mason Sallee won the boys triple jump title— an event he will also try and defend next week at the state meet.
His 46-3 1/4 jump edged South Kitsap’s Albert MacArthur (46-2).
▪ Also defending at the 4A state championships will be South Kitsap’s Nolan Van Amen, who is the reigning 4A state champion in the shot put and discus.
He won the district discus title at 174-5.
▪ Kentridge ninth grader Lauryn Ford, who had one of the nation’s top times in the 200 at 23.88, had to scratch out of all of her events because of a hamstring injury.