For the second time in as many years, Highland junior Juliette Laracuente is a Division II state champion in the long jump.
After winning last year with a top leap of 17’11.25”, she put that result — and the rest of the field — in the dust, with four jumps well over that mark. Her winning effort was 19’5.75”, while second place was a foot-and-a-half behind her at 17’11.5”.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I had three jumps over 19 feet. We really wanted me to peak today and to PR at state. This is the meet that counts.”
Laracuente fouled on her first attempt. However, she recovered to go 18’8.25” on her second jump to take a comfortable lead over both the rest of her flight, as well as anyone in the first one.
“For sure; going in with an 18’8” jump and leading everyone,” she said. “I was a foot behind the board. Getting that jump helped me relax.”
From there, she finished her first set of three jumps with an effort of 19’3” to hold a huge lead going into the finals. With her final three jumps, she went 19’1.5”, fouled and finished with her best jump of the day.
After competing at a high school last year when the state track meet was split into three separate contests — one for each division — Laracuente said she preferred the larger venue of The Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Stadium, noting that previously competing in gymnastics helped her get used to competing in front of large crowds.
“It was the same thing as yesterday,” she said. “The big crowds around the long jumped helped. I like big crowds. It makes me feel comfortable. I was feeling more pressure from myself than anything.”
Her long jump victory was just one of three trips to the podium during the weekend for Laracuente. On Friday, she placed third in the high jump by clearing 5’6”.
She was perfect through that height and one of only three competitors to still be in the running. While the other two both cleared 5’7”, after missing on her first attempt at that height, she passed on to 5’8”. However, she could not get over the bar in two tries to wind up third.
“I was coming in with kind of a level head,” she said. “I was hoping to get first, but I can’t control what everyone else does.”
Overall, she was happy with her performance — especially considering that she had an off day the previous week at regionals, where she tied for third, clearing 5’4”.
“By far,” she said. “My legs definitely felt much better and much jumpier.”
Also on Friday, she advanced through the prelims to the finals of the 100 hurdles, winning her heat with a time of 14.47, which was the second-best time of the nine qualifiers. In that race on Saturday, she would get her second third-place finish of the day in 14.63.
Her prelim time set a new school record — breaking the one she set in the regional finals, which broke the one she set in the regional prelims.
“I actually didn’t think I’d hit the record this year with my times early in the year, so to go out there and get records and PRs every time was great,” she said.
Laracuente plans to attend college and compete in the jumping events after high school, but still has her senior year to complete first. She has some high hopes for her final track and field season with the Scots.
“Next year, after jumping 19’5”, I want to go 20’,” she said. “In the high jump, 5’8”.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS