Moore won his first state championship last spring in the high jump, clearing 6'8 for the first time in his career. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
In the high jump, perhaps more than any other event in track and field, nice, round numbers are also the biggest milestones. On the girls' side, clearing five feet for the first time puts one in another class. Clearing five feet has been enough to win state titles. Similarly, on the boys' side, clearing the bar at six feet is a milestone accomplishment, one that has often set the true contenders apart.
How about seven feet?
It's something often spoken about in hushed tones in the track and field community, in part because the high jump is unlike any other event in the sport. Yes, sprinters and distance runners have different strengths and weaknesses, but at least the mechanics of the events are about the same. Even field events such as the long jump and shot put can be attempted by track and field athletes of all backgrounds while retaining a sense of dignity. But not the high jump. The fundamental motion of the jump - the leaping, twisting motion - is unique to one event in one sport.
So, to many, clearing seven feet in the high jump is a foreign concept. Picture the tallest player on your favorite basketball team, and then imagine jumping clear over his head with every part of your body. There's a reason that no Maryland athlete has cleared seven feet in the high jump since Walkersville's Jonathan Hill did it back in 2009. Since 2000, only a select few have even cleared 6'10. But this winter, another challenger has emerged to challenge a mark that most have only ever dreamed of.
South Hagerstown's Nate Moore won the 3A high jump at the state championship last spring, clearing 6'8 for the first time in his track and field career. He opened this winter up with another 6'8 effort. On Friday, December 22, however, Moore reached another level of track and field excellence. At Hagerstown Community College, the high jump pit is in the middle of the track and obscured by a large set of bleachers, so few in the field house saw him clear 6'10 for the first time in his life. An announcement was made, however, as the bar was raised to seven feet. The meet seemed to come to a halt, as everyone turned their attention to the middle of the infield. He took two attempts at seven feet but was unsuccessful. Still, the crowd gave a rousing round of applause, knowing that Moore had attempted a feat only a select few ever get to try to achieve on the high school level.
Now, Moore has his sights set firmly on reaching that next level. MileSplit MD caught up with him this past week.
MileSplit MD: When did you first join the sport of track and field? What got you into the sport, initially?
Nate Moore: Well I started track around eighth grade. My brother Daniel Stokes (who is now a throws coach at Howard University) really pushed me into it. Before I really lacked any passion; I just liked to be active.
MS: So, at least at South Hagerstown, you didn't really start high jumping consistently until the tenth grade. Did you have any experience with the event before that? If not, what were the reason(s) you started high jumping? What was your first impression of the event?
NM: So, I started high jumping my freshman indoor season because I really wanted to compete in meets and the high jump was my only real opportunity. My PR was 4'8 and most meets I no-heighted. Then about midway through my sophomore indoor season I came into contact with my current jumps coach Pat Casadonte, who is responsible for the last seven-foot jumper to come out of Maryland (Walkersville's Jon Hill). She's the reason I really stuck with the high jumping and track as a whole.
MS: What about your new coach's methods or advice do you think helped you break out in your sophomore season? Do you think you could have reached the heights (pun intended) you are at now without her?
NM: She really takes her time to break down a jumper's technique. She truly progressed me from scratch, piece by piece. I know for a fact I would have never touched close to where I am at right now without her.
MS: Throughout the years have there been any other big influences for any component of track and field? Maybe another coach, a teammate or even a competitor who have you a piece of advice?
NM: Yes, I am very blessed to have a hugh support network. From my family, to my amazing coaching staff, even officials. I truly just pull so much from the people around me that I can't point out any one piece of advice. One thing that really stuck with me was Jon Hill jumping 7'1 off hardwood. It pushes me to never limit myself every time I step on a track.
MS: Looking back on your first season high jumping, did it ever occur to you that you might be the next Maryland athlete to clear seven feet? Now that you've cleared 6'10, what is something you wish you could go back and tell your tenth-grade self?
NM: To be totally honest back then I didn't know jumping six feet was possible! It really took until my junior year jumping 6'5.25 indoor to accept the reality of hitting seven feet. Looking back I would just tell myself to attack every bar with confidence and power because every bar is the same.
MS: You cleared 6'10 earlier this season at the Dwight Scott Invitational. What was your first reaction when you felt yourself clear the bar? Did your mindset change after the fact, knowing that you were going to attempt to clear seven feet for the first time in your life?
NM: I remember descending from the bar asking myself why I didn't feel the bar. Then as soon as I hit the mat I was very excited and very relieved, mostly because I cleared the bar on my first attempt. When the bar went up to seven feet I brought myself back down. The meet kind of shut down before my first attempt. I had everyone in the building watching me and the silence is something I will never forget. I only took two attempts and I could not pull it off. But I am very confident the next time I come across a bar at seven feet it will end differently.
MS: Now we have talked a lot about the high jump, but you have also excelled in the long and triple jumps as well. Which event (besides the high jump) do you consider your strongest? Which event (it could be any in track and field) do you wish you could be really good at?
NM: I believe my triple jump to be my strongest event other than high jump. Although I have only done either long or triple less than a handful of times in a meet with no practice, I qualified for nationals in the triple jump. I am really looking forward to developing myself in the sand and hitting elite level marks. I would definitely wish I really good at hurdling. Really, I have a deep admiration for hurdlers. It was something I briefly dabbled with early in my career. At times I wonder where I would be if I stuck with it. Maybe I will get back to it - who knows?
MS: So you are saying that you rarely practice for the horizontal jumps? What, then, does a simplified weekly outlook of practice look like for you? Is there a component of high jump training that you think most runners are not aware of?
NM: The horizontal jumps were just something I showed up and did at championship meets last year. I missed most of my outdoor junior season due to a back injury so coming back and hitting all-around good marks in every jump event was very humbling and a big eye-opener for me. As a jumper, my main tool is power. 80% of my preparation is done completely away from the track in the weight room. I think it is what separates jumpers from sprinters on the high school level.
My week includes one or two jump practices with two lift days set in between jump days when I am in season. Out of season (and especially leading up to a season) I lift four times a week with one jump day. I also mix in some sprint and plyometric work once a week.
MS: Looking ahead to the rest of the season, what are the big marks (besides seven feet) that you are looking to hit? Any big meets you plan on competing in/qualifying for?
NM: Looking forward, my goals include:
- 7'2 in the high jump
- 50 feet in the triple jump
- 23'9 in the long jump
I am really looking forward to New Balance Nationals (both indoor and outdoor) and Penn Relays. I have not jumped in spikes yet indoor so most of all I am just looking forward to attending a meet where I can wear spikes.
MS: How about the college process? Where are you in the process of choosing a school?
NM: My recruitment really kicked off after I hit 6'10. I have received an offer from the University of Maryland, a really great program close to home. Also I am taking some official visits in the upcoming weeks.
Favorite Pre-Meet Artist/Song: Chief Keef, Lud Foe and Kodak Black
Favorite Post-Meet Meal: Hot wings from Buffalo Wild Wings or BJ's
Funniest Teammate: Kaithon McDonald
Favorite Non-Track Memory: Christmas with my family when I was little
Dream Job: Pro athlete or coach