After Jaylyn Agnew won her third state high jump championship for Andover last spring, she told her dad, Jay, “I might as well go for four.”
It’s good that the Agnews had that conversation on record, because that’s one of the last times Jaylyn talked about the possibility of four state championships. The pressure of trying for such an accomplishment and the fact that she had already stated the goal made more talk unnecessary.
“It’s like the elephant in the room,” Andover coach Mike Lee said. “You know that it’s there, but you’re not discussing it. Everyone knows it’s there.”
Agnew kicked the elephant out on Saturday, winning her fourth title by clearing 5 feet, 6 inches. She became the third athlete to win four high jump titles and the first since Elkhart’s Kristi Rinehart won her fourth in 1996.
Agnew also finished off a four-year undefeated streak in the event that saw her threaten the state record early in her career. She won with a 5-10 jump in 2012, matching that with an in-season jump the following year. She’s tied for the fifth-best jump in Kansas history.
Saturday, Agnew cleared 5-6 on her second try to best Valley Center’s Madison Runnion, the only other jumper that got to 5-4. Agnew, who has signed to play basketball at Creighton, was already a four-time champion when she missed on three tries at 5-8.
“The pressure – I’ve won the last three, so I was like, I don’t know what I’d do if I lost the last one,” said Agnew, who ran on Andover’s 400-meter relay team, which finished second on Saturday.
“It’s good now. A couple weeks ago, I wasn’t jumping too well. I think I was just thinking about it too much. So I tried to let everything go today and just jump, and I think I did pretty good.”
Going undefeated for three years didn’t offer Agnew, in her senior year, a natural progression of peaks and valleys afforded to most other athletes. She had to almost constantly be at her best, though she’s difficult to beat even when she’s competing at slightly less than full capacity.
The weight on Agnew finally was lifted while she was trying to get over the bar at 5-8.
She felt tears in her eyes with the realization that her high school athletics career – Agnew also excels in basketball and volleyball – was ending on a cold morning in late spring.
More than that, though, Agnew was emotional because she no longer had to put on a brave face, which she wore this season while combating the stress of trying to pull of two historic feats.
“I didn’t really think about (being undefeated) until last year after I won state,” Agnew said. “I was like, I guess I haven’t lost, and it’s senior year. I was like, ‘Should I worry about it?’ I was a little worried this year. A couple times before I jumped I thought about being undefeated, and it made me more nervous, I think. It worried me a little bit more.
“I had to cross it out of my mind and just go and jump.”
After she won, Agnew waved to her family and coaches, who were watching her from behind a fence about 20 yards away. She smiled, because she finally could again.
“She knew in the back of her head that there’s a lot riding on this meet today,” Jay Agnew said. “We didn’t talk about it today, we didn’t talk about it Friday. We tried to keep it is a normal as possible. When I dropped her off today, I just said, ‘Hey, go out and do what you do and everything will be fine.’
“And she did.”