Wright off to a flying start with long jump title

Wellsville’s Justin Wright leaps to a state long jump title during the Div. III state track meet Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. (Photo by Ron Firth)

COLUMBUS — Wellsville junior Justin Wright is starting his collection of gold medals.

Wright, who thought he was done in the long jump in 10th place, went 23-feet-3 1/4 on his last attempt to win the Division III state title Friday night.

“It’s not the gold I thought I would get,” he said. “It’s one I was hoping to get. My goal always is to win.”

It was a competition they’ll be talking about for a long time.

“It was awesome,” Columbiana junior Joey Bable said. “Everybody pushed everybody. Justin went 22-3. It was pretty sweet.”

Wright tied for ninth place in the preliminaries, sending 10 long jumpers to the finals.

“I started off struggling,” Wright said. “I was upset. I was frustrated.”

He got dressed and was ready to leave.

“I didn’t think I made it,” Wright said. “I started walking away.”

He entered the finals with a fresh start.

“It was a complete new life when I got to the finals,” Wright said. “My coaches got together with me and went over the mistakes I was making and what I had to do to fix it.

He climbed into third with a 22-1 on his next-to-last attempt and had a personal-best 23-3 1/4 on his last try.

The last jumper, Chillicothe Southeastern junior Lane Ruby, flew 23-2 1/2 to miss the state title by less than 1 inch.

“The atmosphere at Jesse Owens is insane,” Wright said. “You don’t know what it’s like until you run here.”

He is Wellsville’s first state champion since Amanda Davidson won the Division III 100-meter hurdles in 1996.

All four jumpers from the Springfield district placed in the top nine at state.

Western Reserve junior Josh Miller was fourth (22-2 on his last attempt), Bable was seventh (21-9 1/4) and Crestview senior Dylan Huff was ninth (21-8 1/2 on his last attempt.”

“It was good to go against some familiar faces,” Bable said. “I hope to see them here next year.”

The competition among the local long jumpers makes all of them better. You saw that at state.

“Everyone is pushing you to get farther distance,” Bable said. “It’s fun.”

State notes

¯ The weather delay came right before the Division III long jump started.

“I sat under a tree and got rained on,” Wright said.