Published: May 14, 2013
As a senior, everything is reduced to one last opportunity. It's quite a different type of opportunity when no one will ever have it again at that school.
Wasson's DJ Hanes has helped carry the legacy of an entire student body, one sport at a time, as 54 years of history come to a close later this month.
He ended his last football season as the school record holder in four receiving categories, then led the Thunderbirds' basketball team into the 4A state semifinals, its farthest playoff journey in 25 years.
As the multitalented athlete transitioned into track, two goals entered his mind. One he ultimately achieved, forever. Another is just one long jump away Friday at the state track and field championships at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood.
"I do want to win state in the last year of my school," Hanes said. "We didn't get it for basketball. We came up a little short. It would be nice to win the long jump at state, get a ring and leave Wasson with something to remember."
Hanes, bound for Northern Colorado on a football scholarship, recorded a jump of 23 feet, 8 inches May 4 at the Doherty Spartan Invitational at Garry Berry Stadium, his home track just down the hill from Wasson.
It broke the previous school record by 4 inches and ranks as the longest jump this season in any class. No matter what happens Friday, Hanes will always hold Wasson's long jump record.
"That's what I was focusing on all season," said Hanes, who previously competed in the triple jump, but chose to put all his efforts into long jumping during his senior year. "The school's going to close down, so nobody can beat it. It's a pretty good feeling knowing that."
The three-day track and field meet gets underway Thursday, and Hanes plans on being there early. He'll be there to cheer on Wasson's only other athlete at the state meet, girls' triple jumper Mercedes Parnell.
Since the Feb. 6 decision from District 11 to close Wasson at the end of the school year, Hanes has received plenty of well wishes and encouragement.
"At different meets, people ask how I'm doing and how I feel about everything that's going on, and I appreciate it," Hanes said. "People might think I get tired of it, but I don't. They obviously care. I'm just trying to enjoy the moment. This is it."
Hanes is making his third trip to the state meet, but never as a contender to take the top spot on the podium. His leap of 21-6 was good for ninth last year. He also placed ninth in the triple jump. The year before, he finished 10th in the long jump.
The key? Ditch the triple. Just focus on one discipline.
"The triple takes a toll on your body," Hanes said. "The long jump is where I started, and I've really put the focus on that this season. I've worked on only the long jump, and I've improved throughout the season."
Hanes, along with Parnell, gets one more chance to jump while wearing the Wasson jersey. While they can't change past history, either can become part of it with one legendary leap.
"State hasn't been the way I wanted it the past two years," Hanes said. "This is our last chance. It'll be different this year."