Published: March 22, 2014
PUEBLO - Sharp winds out of the north certainly had gotten to Mesa Ridge long jumper Kahlil James.
After his final attempt late Saturday afternoon at the Centennial Invitational at Dutch Clark Stadium, the junior scooted to find his sweats, quickly put them back on and shivered on the metal bleachers while waiting to watch his team's entry in the 1,600-meter relay before heading home.
He didn't even stick around to see how his best jump, a leap of 21 feet, 4? inches, had fared against his competition.
As it turned out, it was the day's best attempt.
"I didn't know I won," a surprised James said, when told he'd won. "It's the first time I ever won at long jumping."
Earlier in the afternoon, and seemingly in another season of sunshine and partly cloudy skies, James took second to Widefield's Kyree Goodman in the triple jump, an event James finished fourth at last season's 4A state meet.
But by the time the last group of 60 long jumpers started their runs later Saturday, the conditions had dramatically changed. The finals, featuring the top 10 distances from the first set of jumps, tested the mettle and fortitude of those who advanced.
And at least one jumper tried to catch an official off guard by keeping his sweatpants on during his attempt.
Dionne Taylor made it two, maybe three steps down the runway before he was stopped.
"Yeah, I thought I could make it by," the Pine Creek junior said. "No one likes it when it's cold like this, but you just have to push through it."
Taylor's teammate, Ronald Sweeten, entered the day as the top seed with the best jump of the young season at 22-4. That mark would be hard to duplicate under Saturday's conditions.
He came close, registering a leap of 21-3? to take second.
"You've got to be mentally prepared, to prepare your brain and body for the cold," said Sweeten, who had at least a little more protection in the form of padding when he suited up for the 4A state champion Pine Creek football team last fall. "You've got to keep your muscles warmed up. It was sunny when we started, then it changed before we went. That made me a little mad."
That emotion described the complete opposite of James, who hopes to parlay Saturday's long-jumping victory into bigger things as the season unfolds.
"I'm more of a triple jumper," James said. "Maybe this can get me to the next level, to state."