By DARREN MILLER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — University of Iowa sophomore Jay Hunt batted 3-for-4 on Saturday, and that performance has him jumping toward the NCAA Championships on June 7.
It was a personal-best day for Hunt, a Hawkeye high-jumper from Batavia, Illinois, who two weeks earlier placed sixth in the Big Ten Championships with a clearance of 7-foot, ¼-inches. His effort at Big Tens allowed him to become one of 46 competitors at the NCAA West Preliminary at Hornet Stadium.
There, Hunt passed at 6-7, then cleared 6-9 and 6-11 on his first attempts. He made 7-1 on his second try.
“It’s crazy,” Hunt said. “I was just happy to make regionals a couple weeks ago and now I’m going to nationals. It’s wild, I figured everything out at the right time, I guess.”
By making 7-1, Hunt sat comfortably in a tie for sixth place Saturday. He was one of nine competitors that made the height, and since the top 12 advance to the NCAA Championships, he shut it down for the day.
“Look at what Jay Hunt did,” said Joey Woody, Iowa’s director of track and field. “He started a fantastic day with a PR in the high jump when he needed to.”
It has been quite a postseason for Hunt, whose previous best before the Big Ten outdoor meet was 6-10 ¾ indoors at Nebraska’s Frank Sevigne Invitational on Feb. 2. At the conference meet, he made consecutive clearances at 6-8, 6-9 ¾, 6-11, and 7-0 ¼ before missing three times at 7-1 ½.
“I was feeling good and ready to go coming off Big Tens after that 7-foot clearance,” Hunt said. “I was over 7-foot (at Big Tens) by a decent amount, so I knew if I did the right stuff and stuck to the approach my coach told me to do, I would be able to clear 7-1 or whatever I needed to clear.”
Hunt credits instruction from assistant coach Paige Knodle that emphasizes good form on his approach by keeping his knees up and good foot pressure.
“I kept doing that, doing that, it became muscle memory and now I have it down,” he said.
Even the initial miss at 7-1 didn’t deter Hunt. He knew he slowed at the end of his approach and tried to power jump. A change was quickly made.
“I knew if I kept to my speed and accelerated through the jump that I would clear it,” Hunt said. “That’s what I did and it felt great.”
Hunt will be among the top 24 high jumpers at the NCAA Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. He isn’t about to accept 7-1 as his PR.
“With that jump (Saturday), I think I can go 7-2 or 7-3,” Hunt said. “We’ll see.”