Jakovina makes jump into elite

By Joe scalzo


For one weekend, Jay Jakovina valued experience over performance.

The Fitch junior leaped 6 feet, 31/4 inches to finish 22nd out of 30 high jumpers at last weekend’s New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York.

It was six inches below his career-best but considering he was the only Ohioan in a field that included 10 state champions nationwide, he considered it a success just by being there.

“Just competing with those guys and seeing that level of competition was amazing,” said Jakovina, who was joined by teammate Ali Tolich, who finished 10th in the weight throw and 16th in the shot put. “Some of those people were training for the Olympics.

“I was really proud of myself for qualifying as a junior.”

The 6-foot-3 Jakovina has made the, ahem, jump from good to elite over the past nine months and enters Saturday’s Ohio state indoor meet with the best height among the 16 Division I qualifiers. Only one other jumper, Amherst Steele senior Tyler Parrish (6-9) is within two inches of Jakovina’s best jump.

His coach, Fitch assistant Andy DeNiro, said last week’s experience should pay big dividends on Saturday.

“The thing about jumping is, it’s not like running a race where you’re pretty much around the same time,” DeNiro said. “With jumping, you have good days and bad days, so honestly we weren’t expecting that much out of him last week. We just wanted him to get that experience.

“It’s going to make indoor state this week pretty easy because the stress level is nowhere near what he just came from.”

Jakovina jumped just 5-10 to finish 13th at last year’s state indoor meet — “I think I went in a little nervous,” he said — then finished as district runner-up during the outdoor season.

After placing 10th at the regional meet, Jakovina gave up summer baseball and dedicated himself to track, working out at Dick Hartzell’s Jump Stretch in Youngstown and Speed-N-Skillz in Niles in addition to lifting weights.

DeNiro thinks Jakovina can clear 7 feet by the end of the outdoor season — Fitch’s school record is 6-10 — and develop into the type of jumper who consistently clears between 6-8 and 6-10 from meet to meet.

“I’ve been coaching six years and there’s six or seven high jumpers I’ve seen [in Ohio] clear seven feet over that time,” DeNiro said. “He’s better than all those guys except one.

“I think seven feet is a very realistic expectation.”

Jakovina will also run with Fitch’s 4x400-meter relay team on Saturday and is developing into a good long jumper, as well. DeNiro thinks he’s got the skill set to be a decathlete in college. He’s also got the work ethic — Jakovina and DeNiro study film after every meet, including a quick session during dinner in New York last weekend.

“That shows you what type of kid he is,” DeNiro said. “With him, he takes everything in stride. He saw it was nice to be there last week but at the same time, if you ask him, he would tell you he was disappointed in how he did.

“Next year, he’s not just going to be satisfied with just being there.”

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