Daughter of World-Class Triple Jumper Just Like Dad

Times Staff Writer

It was less than four years ago when Charles Yendork realized that daughter Juliana might have a future in track and field.

A former world-class triple jumper for Ghana, Yendork had been practicing his specialty when his daughter approached him hoping to give it a try.

To his surprise, the 13-year-old leaped 34 feet--competitive even for high school standards.


Within a year she was surpassing 40 feet in the triple jump and 19 feet in the long jump. At 14 she established an age-group record of 40-3 in winning the triple jump in the Junior Olympics at Provo, Utah.

She has been steadily progressing since.

As a 16-year-old sophomore at Walnut High, Yendork has been opening eyes with her performances.

In a dual meet against Covina last week, the 5-11 Yendork uncorked a 41-4 1/2, best in the state this season and No. 7 in the world, according to Track and Field News.

She has been nearly as impressive in the long jump, soaring to a state best of 19-6 1/2 against the wind in the Valle Vista League preliminaries Monday at Azusa Pacific University. That is only three-fourths of an inch off the national best--a distance she hopes to surpass today in the league finals at Azusa Pacific.

Yendork has succeeded despite having never faced a lot of competition.

She had competed as a freshman at University High in Waco, Tex., but her father did not feel she was receiving enough competition in Texas.

That prompted him to leave his job as men’s and women’s track coach at Paul Quinn College in Waco and move to California. He is a part-time assistant for Walnut this season and is searching for a full-time position.


“We heard about how competitive it is here, but we haven’t really gotten much competition yet,” he said.

“We’re hoping that when she gets to the CIF meets she gets the competition.”

“You have to have good competition to get better because sometimes you can’t push yourself,” Juliana said.

Although she says she has not watched a lot of track in California since she arrived in January, Yendork thinks the competition will be more challenging as the state meet approaches in June.

Yendork said she has received considerably more competition in two other events, the 200- and 400-meter dashes. She has produced bests of 25.0 seconds in the 200 and 58.2 in the 400, among the top times in the San Gabriel Valley.

“I think the sprinting competition is a lot better here than in Texas, but the jumping for me is about the same,” she said.

Her father thinks she has the ability to run the 200 in 23 and the 400 in 53.

“She can be a real true sprinter and a real true jumper,” he said. “She was breaking (age-group) records at 14 and 15. But we haven’t really concentrated on the sprints. We’ve emphasized the triple jump and the long jump and she’s done well.”


If she receives competition in the jumps, her father said there is no telling how much she can improve.

He thinks she has the ability to go 43 or 44 feet in the triple jump by the state meet if she refines a new technique she has been attempting to perfect.

“She used to use a double-arm (technique) in the triple jump and now she’s using a single arm,” he said. “That’s the technique the best jumpers in the world use. Right now she should be jumping 44 or 45 feet. Once she’s able to master the single-arm, she can go 43 or 44 easily.”

She said she leaped about 43 feet in the Arcadia Invitational meet in April, only to foul on the attempt.

Her father said she has had a few problems fouling recently but he has been impressed with her performance overall.

“She’s only 16 years old and you don’t see girls 16 jumping 41 feet in the triple jump,” he said. “She’s going up mostly against juniors and seniors, and she’s beating them.”


As for the long jump, he thinks she has a chance to surpass the 20-foot barrier today in the league finals.

“Right now her potential is 21 easily this year,” he said. “But she can jump 22 if she gets good competition.”

Juliana’s emergence as a prep track star in Southern California may have taken a few people by surprise, but her father is not one of them.

“I’m not really surprised because, from working with her at a young age, we knew she had talent and she’s also a good athlete,” he said. “She’s a good basketball and tennis player.”

It also doesn’t hurt to come from a strong family athletic background.

Her father was one of the top triple jumpers in the world in the mid-1970s with a best of 56-7 heading into the 1976 Summer Olympics at Montreal. “That would’ve been good enough to win the gold medal,” he said.

Unfortunately, that was also the year African nations boycotted the Olympics in opposition to apartheid in South Africa. So, instead of competing for Ghana, he wound up watching the Olympics from the grandstand.


“It was a painful experience,” he recalled. “We understood the politics involved, but we had trained so hard to get there.”

His wife, whom he has since divorced, was a top sprinter and jumper for Ghana and still lives in that West African nation.

Shortly after the 1976 Olympics, he left Ghana and settled in Houston. He was an assistant coach at Texas Southern University and at a community college in Houston for about 10 years before becoming coach at Paul Quinn, a small college in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics, about two years ago.

Juliana was born in Bolgatanga, Ghana, and went to Houston when she was 6 years old. She says she does not remember a lot about her life in Ghana.

Yendork and her father expect to become U.S. citizens before the end of the year.

Juliana competed for Ghana in the triple jump in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. She had just turned 16 and was one of the youngest competitors in the Olympics, and she admits she did not have one of her best performances.

“The weather got real cold and then it got real hot,” she said. “I didn’t do real good and I didn’t make the finals. But it was a great learning experience. That was my first time competing at that high of a level.


“Watching them and seeing how they do it and learning from my mistakes, I know it’s given me a lot of confidence to compete.”

Yendork has set a long-term goal of winning a gold medal for the U.S. in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. But her father said she will get a taste of international competition long before 1992.

She has a long list of track meets in which she is scheduled to compete after the CIF state meet June 2 and 3 at Cerritos College in Norwalk. First there is the Junior Nationals on June 9 and 10 at Ohio State University and the TAC National Championships on June 15-17 in Houston.

After that she will compete in international meets in Sweden, Finland, West Germany and England. She is also hoping to compete in the World Cup track championships in September at Barcelona.

She has a lot plans, but Yendork does not want to get caught looking too far into the future.

“I’m still only a sophomore and I have three years until the Olympics,” she said. “I just want to take it one step at a time and not worry about everything else.”


For the moment she will set her sights on the league finals today and the CIF prelims next week, two meets where she figures to more than hold her own.