Declan Howell never expected to be where he was standing Friday, May 27.
The freshman high jumper for the Hiland Hawks began the season by hoping to clear 5-02 in the high jump, and even mid-way through the season was struggling at 5-06. But as the season wore on, he continued to improve, and by the end of the year had actually cleared 6-feet.
So when he placed second at the St. Clairsville district to qualify for regionals, even he was a bit shocked. His regional effort saw him open by clearing 5-08, but he, along with several other competitors, bowed out at 5-10.
While his regional performance wasn’t what he wanted, it served as a wonderful growing experience for a young athlete with high hopes moving forward.
“It was good,” said Howell of the year. “I had a lot of help from Collin (Blochlinger) and Morgan (Gingerich), so that helped give me a lot of experience for next year.”
Howell began high jumping in junior high, and didn’t experience a lot of success.
“Yeah, when I first started out it was pretty rough,” said Howell of his efforts early on. “I was just kind of jumping over the bar without any kind of technique. Even earlier this year I was clearing 5-02 and 5-04, and it wasn’t looking good for anything.”
But eventually the form developed, and working with the two aforementioned former Hiland jumpers has helped him develop his technique and gain confidence.
However, at regionals Howell was the shortest jumper in the field. In a sport where most leapers are tall and lanky, Howell was at a bit of a disadvantage being on the shorter side.
But he knows he will grow, and meanwhile he will work on perfecting his form until that time comes.
“It used to be a little intimidating,” said Howell of being the shortest jumper. “But that has kind of disappeared as I gained confidence. I know I can get six feet, so I have to just go out and do it.”
With three more years to perfect his trade and a good work ethic, Howell is more than capable of growing into a leaper whop could return to these regional stomping grounds several times.