Cassell aims to leap field for state high jump crown|[4/29/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

Allen Cassell’s track career started as a skinny seventh-grader at Chamberlain-Hunt Academy. He didn’t possess any special skills, nor did his coaches didn’t see any serious potential. Cassell was just the only junior high athlete who could clear the bar on the high jump.

Since then, he has cleared almost every bar put in front of him. Now a senior at Porters Chapel, he has two state high jump championships to his credit and will go for a third today at the Academy-A state meet in Jackson.

“My chances are pretty good, but anything can happen. So I’m definitely not going in there with a big head,” said Cassell, who had the best state qualifying marks in both the high jump and long jump, and will compete in both events today. “There’s a bunch of good jumpers, but I think I’m the most consistent.”

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Cassell qualified for the state meet with a jump of 6 feet, 6 inches at last week’s North State meet. That’s tied with Desoto’s Zack Delk for the best qualifying mark, and an inch better than the 6-foot-5 leap Cassell used to claim his second state title last year.

It’s not bad for a leaper who has had little formal coaching.

PCA has no track facility of its own. While the school’s runners can still work out on the football field, its field athletes have been forced to find other practice methods. Cassell has worked on his own, practicing where he can and taking mental notes while watching other jumpers to refine his technique.

He has a career-best jump of 6 feet, 8 inches, is consistently in the 6-foot-4 range, and earned a trip to last year’s National Junior Olympics in Oregon.

“The guy is unbelievable. He has perfect technique and perfect fundamentals,” PCA track coach Jim Delaughter said. “He makes it look effortless.”

While Cassell’s best event is the high jump, he has also come on strong in the long jump this spring. He qualified for the state meet with a leap of 20 feet, 4 1/2 inches, nearly two feet longer than what he was jumping last year.

He also won in the triple jump at several meets this season, but failed to qualify for the state meet.

“I’ve always done long jump. I was just never able to jump as far. Somehow I’ve gained an extra two feet this year,” Cassell said. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything different. I’m just getting better results. Maybe I picked up some extra speed to get momentum, but I really don’t know.”

What he does know is that he’d like to earn two gold medals today. A third high jump championship is what he’s really after, but it’d be nice to sweep both events, he said.

“That’d be awesome. I’m going to take it one event at a time. I’m focusing on the high jump, but I’m not taking anything away from the long jump,” Cassell said, adding that finishing his dynasty in the high jump would mean more than a first long jump title. “High jump, because that’s what I’m known for. I’m average, by standards, in the long jump, and slightly above average in the high jump.”