St. Al’s Burke rises up to win Class AAA long jump crown

Published 8:30 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

JACKSON — One jump can make all the difference.

Entering the long jump competition at the MAIS Class AAA state meet on Friday, St. Aloysius’ Natalie Burke knew that as a freshman, she wasn’t expected to take home the gold while jumping against much older competition. But when she landed in the sand after her first jump and heard the judge, she couldn’t believe her ears.

She asked her father what she jumped, and when he replied that she made it 16 feet, 9 ½ inches, she knew it was going to be a good day for her.

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On her last jump, Burke made it all the way to 17 feet flat and was rewarded with a trip to the podium and a gold medal as the Class AAA state champion.

“Whenever I came to the meet, my personal record was a 16-5, and my opening jump was a 16-9 1/2 and I ended up with a 17, so a lot longer than they normally are,” Burke said. “I was really happy. It just felt amazing, honestly.”

St. Al coach Michael Fields was also pleased with Burke’s victory, which helped spring St. Al into what it hopes is a successful weekend at the state meet.

Field events were contested Friday, and running events are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Jackson Prep.

“That was wonderful,” Fields said of Burke’s victory. “She’s just a ninth grader. The sky is the limit for her. She’s a quick learner, a hard worker, and a great kid.”

Burke had finished third in the triple jump in 2017, and also competed in that event this year. She finished fifth, with a leap of 33 feet, 4 1/4 inches. The state title in the long jump more than made up for that.

“The long jump is her best event, she loves it more, and she didn’t even make it to state last year in the long jump,” Fields said. “She had something to prove. She was hungry. I’m just hoping that it’s the first of many for her.”

Indianola Academy’s Allie Rodgers was second in the long jump, with a leap of 16-4 3/4. Wayne Academy’s Ashton Stanley took the bronze medal with a leap of 16-3. Porter’s Chapel Academy’s Shelby Barwick finished seventh.

“It was interesting, I did not expect to get it,” Burke said. “Being a freshman, I was just happy to make it to state this year, but definitely a shocker.”

Fields wasn’t surprised by Burke’s dominant performance.

“She had a good session Wednesday, and she catches on pretty well,” Fields said. “Like I said, she’s in condition, she’s been in a good running program, sprint program. We tried not to kill her legs this week to make sure they have a lot of pop, so she could peak at the right time, and it worked for her.”