Huntington Beach High senior Jack Wiseman had flashed promise in the boys’ high jump from the moment that he walked out to the track.
The first invitational of his career saw him jump 6 feet 3 inches on his home track in the Beach Cities Invitational three years ago. The seasonal-best mark won the frosh-soph division that day.
In his debut, Wiseman had captured the attention of the sport’s elite, and he competed in the Arcadia Invitational national meet two weeks later.
Wiseman came back for his sophomore year, and he again opened the season by conquering a new bar. At the Irvine Invitational in 2017, he cleared 6-6. Subconsciously, Wiseman knew that the margin for error was getting thinner and thinner.
“I was on a great track, and then I just started slowing down at 6-6,” Wiseman said. “My technique wasn’t improving to the point where it was allowing me to get any higher without natural ability. Whenever I’m getting to that 6-7 or 6-8 bar, my head’s just thinking, ‘Crap, this isn’t just effortless anymore. I need to execute everything perfectly.’
“It was just so much pressure, kind of, internally on me that it caused me to just screw up a million times. It took two years of realizing that to finally put it together.”
At last, Wiseman experienced a breakthrough in the Wave League finals at Laguna Beach High on April 25. He won his second league title, capping the day by getting over the bar at 6-7.
Since the journey to the next personal record had taken more than two years, Oilers high jump coach Peggy Odita-Hodel said that the 6-7 clearance felt as though it should have been seven feet. She felt that Wiseman had been physically ready to jump high for two years.
“It was the mental barrier,” Odita-Hodel said. “As soon as that bar got past 6-6, his whole demeanor would change. I would see him run up to the bar, and it was like, ‘Where did Jack go? This guy is stiff, and he’s nervous, and I can see it.’ You could see it, and you tell him, ‘Look, don’t worry about how high the bar is. Just execute your technique.’
“I don’t know if he was mentally ready to jump that high. He was physically ready, but I don’t believe that he thought that he could jump that high, so it kind of held him back a little bit.”
In high jump, or for that matter any field event, an attempt is completed in a matter of seconds. The pressure to concentrate and execute in that time frame can be demanding.
Wiseman’s father, Tim, was a pitcher for UC Riverside. Having a former college athlete in the family has proven beneficial for the son. Wiseman is bound for UC San Diego.
“His theocracy is that it doesn’t matter what is going on in your life, it doesn’t matter if you’re hurting,” Wiseman said of his father. “Whatever is happening, you need to just do your absolute best, and you will overcome whatever you need to do. Having that motivation all the time of just that ‘no excuses’ attitude, you just got to go for it and do your best.”
Heading into his third Masters Meet, Wiseman was carrying himself with new belief and also new strategy. With the at-large qualifying standard for state having dropped to 6-4, Wiseman and the rest of the competitors knew that they stood a good chance of advancing.
In addition, Wiseman’s private coach Troy Haines had worked with him to move his takeoff point farther away from the bar, allowing him to execute his mechanics.
At the Masters Meet, Wiseman was only supposed to jump until he qualified for state. Instead, he went on to conquer two lifetime-best bars at 6-8 and 6-10 to win the Masters championship.
At state, Wiseman cleared 6-6 on Friday at Buchanan High in Clovis and advanced to the second day of the meet. The top six will medal on Saturday.
The higher the bar went, the greater the suspense became. Huntington Beach seniors Lars Mitchel (distance runner) and Dylan Plantinga (sprinter), two of Wiseman’s closest friends, were in the stands.
“He was only supposed to do 6-4, but when he was jumping so well, I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” Odita-Hodel said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘He should probably keep going.’ It was so easy. It was effortless. It was looking so effortless, and I was like, ‘You know, you don’t come across days like that too often.’
“[His] mom came over, actually, and said, ‘Is he going to go for 6-10?’
I said, ‘I kind of want him to. We haven’t really been jumping at high heights, and so he needs this. He actually needs to be jumping at high heights. We’ll kind of monitor as we go and see how he is doing.’
After clearing 6-8, Wiseman walked over to the edge of the track and looked up at his camp. He begged Odita-Hodel to let him attempt 6-10. She looked at him, held on finger up, and said, “You get one.”
“The run up felt good, I hit that plant, and once I got halfway up, I threw my head back and didn’t feel [the bar], which was shocking to me,” Wiseman said of his 6-10 attempt. “I kind of pulled my legs over, felt it a little bit, just a tiny bit, rolled over, and when I hit the mat, I didn’t know I had cleared it until I heard the audience scream.I heard my whole family, friends, coaches, everyone was just screaming. Everyone was shouting. I didn’t lay there. I instantly rolled onto my feet, and the bar was still there.
“I still get goosebumps telling the story. I was amazed, just shocked, like couldn’t believe that I just made it over that height because that was a big, big [personal record] day.”
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