GIRLS TRACK

Portage's McKnight eyes long jump school record, state medal

2013-03-31T17:00:00Z 2013-04-01T09:42:08Z Portage's McKnight eyes long jump school record, state medalJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
March 31, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

Among many sports she played growing up, Portage's Jade McKnight happened upon her best largely by coincidence.

"I never knew about the long jump until I started," she said. "My middle school coach actually suggested it."

Back in Griffith, McKnight was even out-leaping some of the boys, while also showing off her athleticism on the softball field and volleyball and basketball courts.

"Track's definitely my favorite," she said.

After moving to Virginia, where she went to school as a freshman, McKnight and her family returned the following year to the region, settling in Portage. She dropped softball, which fraternal twin Jalise still plays, and later quit basketball and volleyball, too.

"It was kind of tough telling (the coach)," McKnight said. "I thought a lot about it. I had a good year (in track) and I just wanted to practice in the summer, do more training, more running."

After missing much of last spring with a hamstring pull sustained during a sprint at an indoor meet, McKnight took second in the sectional and regional qualifying for state, where she placed 15th.

"I don't think she was 100 percent, but she still had a pretty good showing," Portage coach Earl Coleman said. "It was a little hectic for us. We didn't want to bring her back too early."

Not that McKnight didn't try.

"I'd never really been hurt before. It was kind of a shocker," she said. "It taught me a lot. I learned to be positive. It definitely made me stronger."

McKnight spent the summer working out at Wheeler with Rhonda Anderson, a former Olympian.

"I've gotten a lot faster, and speed ties into the long jump," McKnight said. "I plan to go really far."

How far? Try 19 feet, 6 inches.

"I want to place top three in the state," she said. "I think I was a little nervous (last year). It was a little overwhelming. This year, I'll know what to expect."

Between now and then, McKnight has some other items on her to-do list. She hopes to break the long-standing school record of 18-10 held by Shelly Ardell.

"It's just a matter of focus, tweaking a few things here and there," said Coleman, who long jumped in high school. "Probably the biggest thing I'm excited about is Jade's enthusiasm to compete. Everything she does, she's wanting to get better at it. I'm really looking for her to have a big year. She's primed for some big jumps.

"She's a phenomenal student-athlete. I think she could have benefited by doing a couple other sports, but she wanted to track to be her main focus and it's paid off."

McKnight has already accepted a scholarship to Western Michigan, where she will major in sports medicine.

"I always wanted to be a doctor," said McKnight, the oldest of five children. "This way, I can stay on the athletic side."

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