Trying To Reach New Heights University’s Craig Allen Jumps 6-11, But Wants 7-1
What began as a diversion four years ago has become an obsession for Craig Allen, who finds himself in a battle with Mother Nature and a race against time.
The University senior wants to jump over a bar 85 inches off the ground.
“Getting 7-1 is about the most important thing to me in the world,” Allen said. “I’d rather jump 7-1 than win state.”
However, time is running out. The Taco Time District 8 track meet begins tonight at Spokane Falls Community College. Next week, it’s the regional meet in Richland and then it’s state in Tacoma Memorial Day weekend.
Despite facing little or no competition all season, Allen has remained motivated by his goal.
Since clearing 6 feet, 11 inches and 6-10 on back-to-back weekends, Mother Nature has provided Spokane athletes with cold winds and rain almost every day.
“It’s tough (when someone jumps 6-6), I try to take advantage by telling myself they’re up there,” Allen said. “A meet above 50 degrees would be nice, too. At meets when it is at least 60 degrees, I’ve gone at least 6-10.”
Since Allen cleared 6-11 at the Pasco Invitational a month ago, 7-1 has seemed just a jump away. At Hermiston, Ore., a week later, Allen cleared 6-10 and had the bar moved to 7-1. He barely bumped the bar off with the back of his legs on all three attempts.
So Allen was left standing in the rain, as usual, this week, wondering if the window of opportunity was going to close before he had a real chance to get through.
“When I first started as a freshman, when I started in the upper 5s and got to 6-2, everybody laughed when I said I wanted to do it,” Allen said of his dream of being a 7-foot high jumper.
Allen started jumping as an eighth-grader, but his season was cut short with an injury.
He liked jumping, but was more concerned about the impact it had on a basketball future he wasn’t comfortable with.
“I’ve been playing basketball all my life but it really just wasn’t clicking for me,” he said. “I wasn’t having that much fun. Then my dad made me turn out (for track) in ninth grade because I was scared of the the high school kids. I did it more for cross training for basketball.”
With the seed planted, Allen returned for his sophomore season and met Jeff Barrett. Barrett established the U-Hi record by jumping 7-1/4 in 1977 and is one of three 7-foot high jumpers in Spokane high school history.
The seed grew because the Titans high jumpers graduated and Allen was counted to score points.
Then the obsession took roots, “When I won regional at 6-7 as a sophomore, I realized I was one of the big boys,” Allen said.
High jumping is one of those athletic endeavors, like hockey goalie, football kicker, relief pitcher or pole vaulter, where competitors are considered flakes - and are proud of it.
Allen would like to believe he’s one of those eccentrics, but it’s hard to pull off for an honor student who wants to be a high school track coach.
“We’re special people,” he said. “I remember my freshman year, I thought high jumpers were strange ones with goofy hair, always messing around. I started making friends with the jumpers from other schools and found out I became one.
“Now I wonder what the freshmen think of me.”
High jumping has a tangible quality.
“It’s something new,” he said. “I can look at something and compare how high I can jump to the things around me. It just really feels natural.”
Weather permitting, he could jump over your minivan. Naturally.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEAPIN’ LOCALS There have been 15 Washington high school high jumpers to clear 7 feet, including Joey Kirkpatrick of Tumwater this year. Three of them have been from Spokane: Ed Mann West Valley 1975 7-1/4 Jeff Barrett University 1977 7-1/4 Brent Harken Central Valley 1980 7-1
This sidebar appeared with the story: LEAPIN’ LOCALS There have been 15 Washington high school high jumpers to clear 7 feet, including Joey Kirkpatrick of Tumwater this year. Three of them have been from Spokane: Ed Mann West Valley 1975 7-1/4 Jeff Barrett University 1977 7-1/4 Brent Harken Central Valley 1980 7-1