Varsity Track and Field

Cunningham girl sweeps Class 1A jump events

Track and field isn't too popular in the small town of Cunningham, a Class 1A school on Highway 54 between Kingman and Pratt.

Only seven girls came out for the team this year.

"People don't really do track because they don't like to run," Cunningham junior Ashley Shearer said. "But it's not just about running."

Shearer proved that, as she completed a rare sweep in the triple jump, long jump and high jump at the Kansas Track and Field championships.

The last time a girl completed the same feat, in any class, was in 2002 by Inman's Jill Swisher in Class 2A.

"It's amazing," Shearer's coach Bart Ricke said. "I use the word 'freak' a lot with her. She's awful springy, got some long legs."

It's not uncommon for jumpers to double-up in two of the three events, but to excel in all three takes a different kind of explosion.

"The whole technique is different," Wichita Southeast jumps coach Ricardo Harris said. "They are three different technical sports. You could have a kid that can jump out of the gym, but they probably couldn't do all three of them well."

Practices for Shearer this season have consisted mostly of experimenting on her own, practically guessing on what will work in competitions.

"We don't get to practice a lot because we have bad facilities to practice on," Shearer said. "It's kind of fend-for-yourself."

Her style is a proven winner, though. Shearer has won the triple jump in each of her three years. This year she only had two jumps she didn't foul on, but both would have won.

This season she even added the long jump to her repertoire. She said the form was similar to her triple jump, but it took her awhile to figure out.

"I didn't expect this at all the beginning of the season," Shearer said. "I was having problems with my steps and everything. But I got in my groove today."

Since the high jump and long jump competitions started at the same time Saturday, Shearer had to commute from one end of the infield to the other to compete.

"I think it helped me warm up," Shearer said. "I would jump a couple of times over here and then do my prelims over there and come back and high jump. I was going back-and-forth."

Most of her early energy was spent on the long jump. She won the title with her second jump of 16 feet, 10 3/4 inches. Later she cleared 5-2 to win the high jump.

Even after climbing down from the top of the podium three times, never did Shearer hint anything special was happening. It seemed like just an average day for the shy girl from Cunningham.

"I haven't even really thought about it yet," Shearer said. "It was pretty awesome, but I haven't had time to think about it because there was a lot going on today."