The undeniable trio that has represented the state of Illinois over the past several years (Jaimie Robinson photo)
Field events often take a back seat when it comes to track and field coverage. But over the past seven years in the state of Illinois, there is a strong case that says otherwise. When Ja'mari Ward entered high school as a freshman for Cahokia, he was already touted as one of the best in the state. Ward graduated as the greatest triple and long jumper in Illinois history. In fact, the U of Missouri star had jumped a wind legal 26-8.25 to win the Southeastern Conference Championship. That mark would be the longest among collegians and junior ranks. Ward appeared to toy with his peers despite a close finish by Gabriel M dos San of Brazil. Ward had already locked up his winning 25-6 on his second attempt behind a strong tailwind that measured +3.2. dos San jumped 25-4.5 on his final attempt ahead of Ward's pass on the 6th frame.
Supreme coverage from the national press or not did not stop Jaimie Robinson from becoming the top triple jumper in the country over the second half of the season. The Homewood-Flossmoor HS graduate and soon to be U of Alabama star jumped herself into the record books. First, it was the IHSA record book that earned Ms. Robinson the legal status necessary. In early June at an AAU meet, Robinson did the impossible when she nearly jumped out of the pit with a crazy 44-4! Unfortunately, none of the meet officials had a wind gauge to record the all-conditions all-time best effort for an Illinois girl. But it was several days later at the USATF Junior Nationals in Sacremento, California that history was made. Robinson snatched the official US#1 title away from everyone's darling sophomore record holder Jasmine Moore of Mansfield Lake, Texas. Robinson beat the 1st team All-American Moore fair and square with a masterful performance. In fact, Robinson did not waste anytime with the 43-10.5 (+1.5) on her first attempt. In this final event of her prep career, Robinson earned a silver medal against a dominant Cuban who she may see again one day in the Olympics. Kudos for the consistency that 43-8.5 is and ahead of Moore who copped the bronze.
Jelena Rowe listened to her coaches entering her junior of high school and she has not been the same ever since. The two-time US#1 ditched club volleyball and now is the second best junior high jumper in the western hemisphere. The Bloom Township HS graduate is also known as "Jelena 6.0" not because of her 6'4" athletic frame, but rather the consistency in jumping over 6-feet in competitions. Rowe cleared the magical mark on eight different occasions. Though it did not happen in the Peru finale, Rowe reached 5-11.5 and had an opportunity to topple Maria Murillo of Columbia. Both jumpers played cat and mouse with clearances and passes until things got serious in the late going. Murillo got pass 5-11.5 on her final attempt and moved to 6-0.75 and it was over. Rowe held on to the silver medal over Canadian Mikella Oatis who coincidentally competes for UCLA.