HIGHLAND | Run like crazy, hit the takeoff board, and go airborne.
It sounds so simple, this long-jumping thing, for a natural like Highland's Nick Jones, whose personal best is 22 feet, 10 inches — with a sore hip flexor.
"He was our 100-meter guy, our 200-meter guy, but for two weeks and three meets, we couldn't run him," coach Trent Grider said. "He'd just jump one or two jumps and be done."
Jones qualified for Saturday's state meet at Indiana University with his second-place finish of 22-4 1/2 at the Valparaiso Regional.
West Side's Lonnie Johnson was the winner at 23 feet.
"Who knows where (Jones) would be if he was all healthy," Grider said. "It's supposed to be 75 (degrees). If he has a good night or a good afternoon and it's nice weather, we think he's got 23 (feet) in him pretty easily."
Purdue, Louisville and Vincennes University have all shown a steady interest this season.
Last year's winning distance at state was 23-9 1/4 but the champion has graduated, as well as four of the top six finalists in that event.
Jones is shooting for a top three finish and would love to score, thereby assuring him of a spot on the select Highland Wall of Fame.
"First is my goal but I really want to be on that wall of fame because I've got some friends up there," Jones said. "Just to make it ... then I'll be in the school forever."
Jones also plays basketball and football, so he's always in top shape and doesn't train specifically for track.
This will be his first competition at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex at IU and he actually is looking forward to the large crowds of screaming fans.
"I feel I'll do even better having more people there and with the thrill and experience of it all," Jones said. "When you have people cheering your every move, it pushes you to compete at your highest level."
Jones' 22-10 came at the Highland Invitational. Eight of the state qualifiers Saturday have exceeded 22 feet. Three are at 23 feet.
"I do the same thing over and over," Jones said of his routine. "When I take off from the board, I just look up 'cause that's what they tell you to do. And then I land.
"It's really just running and jumping and who's the best at it."