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Community college coach has high hopes for heptathletes

Jim McLachlan has coached a lot of top-caliber high jumpers in his long, hall-of-fame career: from Ed Mann, who cleared 7 feet in 1975, to Melissa Mauro and Kayla Mainer, who won state titles.

So when the longtime West Valley and Community Colleges of Spokane track and field coach says one of his jumpers turned in the perfect jump, you pay attention.

“If I were to make a training video of how to high jump, this is what I’d show them,” he said. “It was absolutely the perfect jump.”

McLachlan was talking about Brittany Dugger, a freshman from East Valley, and the jump happened on a late spring evening on the blue track at Spokane Falls.

“We were jumping for height, which is something we don’t normally do,” he said. “Brittany came to us as a hurdler and we saw something special in her. We had her doing the heptathlon and she was doing pretty well. She’s a good high jumper.”

McLachlan set the bar at 5 feet, 5½ inches for Dugger, who stands just 5-foot-5.

After missing on her first five attempts, Dugger put it all together and cleared the bar.

“I can be pretty hard on myself,” Dugger said. “That’s been my problem, especially with the hurdles. But on that jump I remember letting it all go and just trusting my body. I have a good feel for what I’m doing and I could feel that I was jumping well.”

Dugger went on to win the high jump at the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championships, clearing 5-6 in the final and 5-5 in a jump-off for first place.

“I jumped at 5-8 a couple times and I know I can clear it, but I was pretty tired by that time because I kept running back and forth between the high jump and the hurdles,” she said. “I’m excited about just how high I can go. I think I can go a lot higher in the high jump.”

Her coach agrees.

“That’s probably the most satisfying win I’ve had in a long time,” McLachlan said. “Brittany has grown a lot this season. I think doing the heptathlon has been a great learning experience for her. She’s hard on herself and when things aren’t going well she gets down on herself. She’s learning how to get past it.”

Dugger said she loves the hurdles, “But I am really getting into the high jump. I’m learning how to let it all go and just jump. I’m trying to do the same thing with the hurdles.”

And with the rest of the heptathlon, for that matter. In the heptathlon athletes compete in seven events over two days: 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run.

“Brittany can do really well in the heptathlon,” McLachlan said. “She is good in the hurdles and good in the high jump. She can score real well in those events and that’s a big plus.

“If you’re good in the high jump and good in the hurdles you can score a lot of points. Shot put and javelin aren’t her events, but they don’t have to be.”

Dugger finished fourth in the NWAACC heptathlon, which is held prior to the community college championship meet. Kendra Hamm and Laura Seymour, both from University High, placed third and eighth and Rogers grad Sydney Roberts ninth.

“They’re all doing the heptathlon for the first time this year, and I think they’re all going to get a lot better and I think they’re all excited about it,” McLachlan said. “The top finishers this year were all sophomores who are all gone next year, so unless someone new comes in and blows everyone away, they will all do well.”

Dugger and her teammates all have a bright future beyond the community college, he said.

“I think they all will go on to a four-year school after this,” he said.

It’s what happens when you have faith and encouragement from a good coach.

“I love Otis,” Dugger said of McLachlan, using his nickname. “I don’t remember him ever asking me to do something that was outside of my comfort zone. He let me jump the way I’m most comfortable, and he helped me believe in myself and trust myself. That’s pretty special.”

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