LAKEWOOD – While he waited for his turn to climb the podium and receive his second-place medal following the Class 4A high jump state finals on Friday, more than one of that day’s competitors reiterated the same message to Eddie Kurjak.
The 6-foot-7 Longmont sophomore had just cleared 6 feet, 5 inches to finish runner-up in a state finals that came down to merely each jumper’s number of missed attempts, and the message from his peers was clear: they’d be shocked if he didn’t win at least one high jump title before it’s all said and done.
How Kurjak has performed and the improving trend he has established over his first two high school seasons would indicate that he is likely to do just that.
“Last year, the pressure kind of just got to me,” Kurjak said. “I was overthinking before all my jumps and such. This year, it really helped to have that experience coming back because I felt a little more relaxed. It’s just you versus the bar and it felt like that today.
“I’m fine with second, to be honest, because I’ve still got two years left.”
Kurjak, who finished just outside the top 10 as a freshman at state last spring, came a half-inch short of matching his personal best of 6-5.5 on Friday. That’s the 12th-best mark in Colorado this spring and the best of any sophomore in the state. Also a basketball player, Kurjak was one of three sophomores to qualify for state in 4A and the only sophomore to place in the top five.
Seeded third entering this year’s state finals, Kurjak and others including eventual state champion Cisco Padilla from Pueblo West caught a bit of a break when Centaurus junior Owen Koonce cleared 6-1 but settled for sixth place after missing three attempts at 6-5. Koonce led the state for most of the season and entered the event as the favorite with a seeding mark of 6-6.
“I thought the competition was great,” Kurjak said. “I thought there were a couple guys that came out and did even better than I thought they would. It’s good for them that they came out and competed, and I’m happy with how I did. I think I’m hitting those marks that I wanted to be hitting by the end of the season.”
Kurjak also drew confidence from having a pair of teammates with him in the high jump finals, which were delayed over and hour by rain just as the event was getting going. Also separated in the standings merely by misses, Trojans junior Jack Shew cleared 6-1 to tie for eighth and senior Will Murphy also cleared 6-1 to finish in a tie for 11th.
“I think, team-wise, we did pretty good,” Kurjak said. “The same three of us that qualified for the high jump are triple-jumping tomorrow morning so that should be fun too.”