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2023 high jump preview

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Just as we did in 2022, we asked Patrick Grosserode, the owner of the Trackville training facility in Lincoln, to provide a preview of field events. As he did last year, Patrick wrote an entire article for each discipline. Patrick is uniquely qualified to opine on the current state of field events, and we're thrilled to work with him. Here is Patrick's recap of the high jump:


Class A Boys

Returning State Medalists (State mark listed)

o Jackson Kessler, 06-08 (1st) – Pius


Outlook: Jackson Kessler came out of nowhere last year to win the state title. His PR was 6’02 going into Districts, we watched his genuine shock after he jumped 6'06 to win Districts at Millard South, and he cleared 6’08 to win State. Dae’Vonn Hall (Bellevue West) went higher than 6'04 only once during 2022, clearing 6'06 at his home meet in late April, but he put on a show at a College of St. Mary meet in late January with a jump 6’09. Beni Ngoyi of Lincoln High cleared 6'04 to finish 3rd last year as a junior, but he graduated in December to get an early start to his football career at Iowa State. Besides Ben, nine of the other fifteen 2022 qualifiers have also graduated. Fresh blood will be needed, and Aiden Welch of Lincoln Southwest leads that pack after he jumped 6’03 during a winter indoor meet. We've also got our eyes on Donnovan Whitfield (Bellevue West) and Cory Vaughn, Jr (Westside); they cleared 6'1 and '6-0, respectively, over the winter. In addition to the boys listed above, some of the state's best jumpers may have been focusing on basketball through March, so we suspect the 2023 podium will include a number of boys not yet on our radar.


Class A Girls

Returning State Medalists

o Ella Heckenlively, 05-05 (1st) – Gretna (above)

o EJ Brown, 05-05 (4th) – Elkhorn South (below)

o Tatum Terwilliger, 05-03 (5th) – Lincoln Southwest

o Jerika Bakenhus, 05-03 (6th) – Lincoln North Star (Wayne State commit)

o Jocelyn Oltman, 05-03 (7th) – Lincoln Southwest

o Jasmine Moats, 05-01 (8th) – Elkhorn South (UNK commit)


Outlook: At 2022 State, the top four girls cleared 5'05 with Heckenlively winning on the tiebreaker while fellow freshman EJ Brown took 4th. Unless it's a bad weather day at 2023 State, we'd be surprised if 5'05 is good enough for 5th place. With six medalists returning - including five who competed over the winter - this should be a very competitive event.


*** State Record Watch *** EJ Brown of Elkhorn is currently ranked 4th among US high schoolers with her clearance of 5’09 on February 19. That leap wasn't an outlier; she had cleared 5'07 the previous two weekends. For the next three seasons EJ will be eyeing the All-Class record of 5'11 set by Meredy Porter (Bellevue West) in 1987 as well as the magical 6’00 mark, and her next shot at that will the Nike National Indoors meet this weekend. While we haven't seen any jump results for Heckenlively over the winter, we don't question her abilities; she's a volleyball standout and she nabbed a 7th-place shot put medal at 2022 State.


Jasmine Moats of Elkhorn South cleared 5’05 this winter to improve on her 5'02 PR from 2022. Lincoln North Star freshman Claire Hellbusch will factor into the medals this season. Claire is a very decorated age group jumper and cleared 5’05 this indoor season. Bakenhus (5’01) , Oltman (5’02.25) and Terwilliger (5'00) have all been training and competing this indoor season.


Class B Boys

Returning Medalists

o Jacob Dowse, 06-06 (2nd) – Sidney

o Cameron Leeling, 06-04 (4th) – Sidney (Doane commit)

o Cash Chytka, 06-04 (5th) – Cozad

o Nolan Studley, 06-01 (6th) – Hastings (UNK commit)

o Jaxon Lipker, 06-02 (6th) – Boone Central

o Jaxon Adams, 06-02 (8th) - Platteview


Outlook: Breck Samuelson of Adams Central won the 2022 title with a leap of 6'08, but six medalists return for what should be a tight contest. Dowse is the highest jumping returner with a PR of 6-06 but he'll get a late start to his track season with Sidney's berth in the State basketball tourney this weekend. Each of the returning medalists have a lifetime best within 1 inch of their state performance. It was a quiet winter for Class B high jumping, with only Ethan Ramakers of Aurora clearing 6'00; he finished 9th in 2022 with a 6'02 PR, so a 6'00.75 over the winter may be a promising sign for his spring. Most of the top jumpers likely played basketball this winter and 10 of the top 13 finishers from last year are returning, so this is going to be a crowded field. One of our dark horses is Jaxon Adams of Platteview; he had a PR of 6'03 last season as a freshman, so it will be interesting to see if more experience and another year of growth will lead to new heights.


Class B Girls

Returning Medalists

o Lauren Gerdes, 05-03 (1st) – Ashland Greenwood

o Sara Spahr, 05-03 (2nd) – Milford (moving to Class C)

o Karsyn Leeling, 05-03 (4th) – Sidney (Doane commit)

o Emma Anibal, 05-03 (4th) – Bennington (UNO commit)

o Kelsey Miller, 05-03 (6th) – Seward

o Margaret Haarberg, 05-01 (7th) – Kearney Catholic (moving to Class C)


Outlook: Last year’s state meet was a log jam with six girls clearing 5’03, leading to tiebreakers and jump offs for medals. That might not adequately explain the depth of the field; only two of the top 17 finishers from last spring have graduated, while two more (Spahr and Haarberg) move to Class C this season. Leeling has a PR of 5’8.25 from 2021 and Miller is at 5’4 after her freshman season. These two have the highest lifetime bests of the returners. Gerdes cleared 5'01 in what appeared to be her only meet of the winter. Consistency at the bigger bars will pay dividends in this field. With Spahr and Haarberg (who cleared 5-06.25 this winter) moving to Class C, we don't see a clear favorite in Class B with the talent so equally dispersed.


Class C Boys

Returning Medalists

o Carter Nelson, 06-10 (1st) – Ainsworth

o Connor Schutt, 06-02 (4th) – Bishop Neuman

o Lance Brester, 06-00 (6th) – Howells-Dodge

o Taylan Vetrovsky, 06-00 (6th) – Freeman


Outlook: Class C was the epicenter of the Nebraska high jump universe in 2022, with Carter Nelson and Landon Olsen (Battle Creek, now at USD) both clearing 6'10 at State with Nelson winning on misses. They weren't the only studs: Micah Biltoft of Sandy Creek came into the State meet with a 6'10 PR and cleared 6'08. Nelson has jumped 7’0, is the class C state record holder, is a 4-star football recruit, and is widely regarded as a next level athlete with dozens of D1 football offers. He's also exceptionally diverse for the T&F world; if not for one of his worst discus outings at 2022 Districts, he would have qualified for State in the HJ, PV, discus and 200. The All Class state record is 7-04 by Randall Carter in 2007. A four inch improvement is a BIG number in the high jump world but he has two more seasons to get after it.


While we lost Olsen and Biltoft to graduation, seven of the top 12 from 2022 are returning. Connor Schutt of Neuman has a 6'05 PR while Drew Johnson of Malcolm (9th in 2022) has as PR of 6'04. While we don't see a HJ mark for Schutt over the winter, he surpassed 43' in the triple jump in late February so he's clearly still got the hops to contend for a top three spot. Vetrovsky has a 6'01 PR while Brester topped out at 6'00 in five meets last spring.

Class C Girls

Returning Medalists

o Bryn McNair, 05-08 (1st) – Chase County

o Sydney Davis, 05-06 (2nd) – Centura

o Channatee Robles, 05-04 (3rd) – Norfolk Catholic

o Ann Bose, 05-04 (4th) – Southern Valley

o Chloe Hanel, 05-02 (5th) – Clarkson Leigh

o Ruthie Loomis-Goltl, 05-02 (6th) – Bridgeport

o Page Crawford, 05-02 (11th) – Centura

o Sara Spahr, 05-03 (2nd in Class B) – Milford

o Margaret Haarberg, 05-01 (7th in Class B) – Kearney Catholic


Outlook: McNair and Davis were the top two jumpers in the All-Class competition, with both improving their PRs by two inches at State. McNair had a huge State meet, also winning the 400 and placing second in the 800 and 4x400. Davis is also a strong long jumper with a PR of 16'9.25.


*** State Record Watch *** The Class C State HJ record is in striking distance; the 5'10 mark is shared by Sue Lind (Albion, 1980 & 1981) and Kailynn Gubbels (Arlington, 2021, now a multi-event athlete at Iowa State).


With seven returning medalists, there's no shortage of talent in Class C. Bose has a lifetime best of 5'05, Robles cleared 5'04 twice last year, and Hanel only has two 2022 meets recorded on athletic.net so her PR could be better than 5'02. Like Carter Nelson, Loomis-Goltl is another Class C multi-sport stud athlete; at 6'03, she's a Colorado basketball commit who just helped Bridgeport to a 3rd-place finish in basketball. She also finished 2nd in the discus last May. The returners also include three non-medalists who cleared 5'00 or higher as freshmen in 2022, so those young ladies could be poised for big improvements in their second seasons.


As if the seven returning medalists from Class C weren't enough, we've got two more moving from Class B to C this season. Margaret Haarberg of Kearney Catholic had a PR this indoor season of 5’6.25, and she cleared 5'05 at two meets in 2022 before jumping 5'01 at State. Sara Spahr of Milford tied her lifetime best during the winter this indoor season with a jump of 5’03 while also presumably playing club volleyball.


When you look at the top-end talent and the incredible depth here, Class C will almost certainly be the most competitive girls' high jump field at State.

Class D Boys

Returning Medalists

o Spencer Hillie, 06-04 (2nd) – Plainview

o Gunnar Hadley, 06-00 (4th) – Loomis


Outlook:

(Tyler Hanson, a distance runner at Axtell, is helping us with the Class D previews.) Last year’s high jump field was very senior heavy, with 9 of the top 11 finishers at State lost to graduation. Spencer Hillie nabbed 2nd place at last year’s state meet, matching the 6-04 by gold medalist Zach Myers but he was edged on misses. Hillie is the favorite this year but two other returners - Hadley and 12th-place Jackson Kerchal of Dundy Bounty Stratton - both have PRs of 6'02. There's a shortage of returners who have cleared 6'00 in prior years, so this is truly a wide open competition for the eight medals.


But wait - another gold-medal contender is in the mix due to reclassification. Sandy Creek moves from Class C to Class D this spring, and that could impact high jump results. Sean Heaton of Sandy Creek finished 11th in Class C in 2022 with a leap of 6'00, but he brings a PR of 6'03.


Class D Girls

Returning Medalists

o McKenna Yates, 04-11 (3rd) – McCool Junction

o Zeigh Booe, 04-11(4th) – Loomis

o Joslynn Donahey, 04-11 (5th) – Palmer


Outlook:

Tyler Hanson: The fight for the girls high jump title this year will be an intense one. All 3 returning medalists from last year cleared 4-11 at the state meet. It all came down to misses, and Yates got the better of the other 2 by not missing a jump until 5-01. As far as PR’s go, Yates has cleared 5-00, while Booe and Donahey have both cleared 5-02. Stella Heapy of Medicine Valley cleared 5'01 at Districts and Haley Klement of East Butler rang up 5'01 in April before both jumped 4'09 at State. Beyond these five girls who were nearly equal in talent during 2022, there are number of other girls who cleared 4'11. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.


*********

Originally written for and posted at www.preprunningnerd.com by Patrick Grosserode, Tyler Hanson and Jay Slagle in March 2023. If you find an error, please DM or e-mail us at jayslagle@hotmail.com and we'll get it fixed.


Patrick Grosserode is the owner of Trackville, an indoor training facility devoted to developing youth, high school and collegiate athletes. He's also the Director of the Lincoln Community Track Club, the jump coach at Lincoln Pius X, and a USATF level 2 jump and sprint/hurdle coach. Lean more about Trackville at https://thetrackville.com/.


Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? There's more of this at www.preprunningnerd.com. Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories, the Articles tab for long-form articles, the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we could find this year, and the Rankings tab for team and individual rankings. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.


Finally, if you think runners and jumpers are the best thing on earth, you'll enjoy our two most popular articles. In 2018 we published "The Runner with the Broken Heart" about a high school boy who finished last in nearly every race he ran. In 2022 we published, "The Fall and Rise of Emmett Hassenstab," a story about a high school triple jumper who became a quadrapalegic after a swimming accident.

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