Update: Curtis Melrose won district, qualified for area, but did not advance past area.
The only intention Heights High School junior Curtis Melrose had when he decided to join the Bulldogs’ track team this year was to use the sport as a way to stay conditioned, and now, he is a district champion long jumper.
“I never really learned to like track,” Melrose said. “It just wasn’t interesting to me, but this year, I decided to run because I wanted to stay in shape and be ready for football coming up in the fall.”
It didn’t take long for the first-year runner to grow an appreciation for the track, despite his initial indifference. He began by running all of the sprint relays, including the 4×100-meter, the 4x200m and the 4x400m.
In addition to his spot on the relay teams, his coach decided to sign him up for the long jump during the second meet of the season.
Although it wasn’t pretty, Melrose did well in his first attempt at the new event and even medaled.
“I had no idea how to do it correctly,” he said. “I just ran and jumped with no form or anything, and I got second after face planting because I stutter stepped and tripped on the board.”
After his introduction to the long jump, Melrose only leaped sporadically throughout the season, even though he finished so highly while using non-traditional tactics.
It wasn’t until the Bulldogs traveled to Prairie View A&M University to compete in the school’s invitational meet that Melrose realized that he was capable of competing with anyone in the event.
“I broke a (personal record) and placed second overall, which was a big deal since it was only the third time I ever jumped,” he said. “That’s when I started taking it serious because I felt that I could go somewhere jumping.”
While his technique was still raw, Melrose decided to drop the relays entirely to focus on improving his form just in time for the upcoming district meet. He spent hours during practice working out the kinks and even used his downtime to read about different methods that would help boost his jump.
He went into the district meet feeling confident because he said he was surprisingly familiar with the competition even though he had only jumped three times before.
Each competitor had three attempts to jump their furthest, but only the top 11 would move on to the next round.
Melrose decidedly outleaped the field in the preliminary round and qualified for the finals.
In the last round, he was slotted to jump last since he held the top spot. No one came close to beating his first-round distance, so Melrose could’ve avoided his final three jumps, but he was unsatisfied and wanted to go even further.
“My gold was already set since no one had even beaten my first jump, but I just wanted to beat myself, so in my last jump, which I could’ve scratched, I jumped, and I broke my PR with a 6.6-meter jump,” he said.
To put that in perspective, he jumped 1.4 yards further than former-Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler averaged per throw this past season. If that doesn’t work, imagine J.J. Watt, James Harden and Dallas Keuchel lying down in a vertical line. Melrose can jump over all three with a foot and a half to spare.
Melrose will get a chance to jump at the area meet this week because of his gold-place finish at district where he hopes to qualify for regionals and then state.
“I really grew a love for the long jump, and I try to stretch the last few inches out of my jump,” Melrose said. “So when I’m in the air I don’t look down, I try to envision myself way up in the sky and keep my feet out and up, but when they hit, I want to get everything forward, so I twist sideways and just out to the side so I don’t fall back.”