Some of track and field hinges on technique and form, the small nuances in a takeoff, a start out of the blocks for a sprinter or a tweak of some sort to a runner’s gait.

At the end of the day, though, the sport’s cream of the crop boils down to who can run the fastest and longest, who can jump highest and furthest. Technicians and students of the sport are appreciable. Just the same, raw athletes like Valley Catholic’s Jarrett Gray and JD Menkens are warmly welcomed because they have the athleticism that can’t be taught, but could be molded and coached into something great.

Menkens — a star wide receiver on Valley’s football team and an invaluable shooting guard on the Valiants’ boys’ hoops state title squad — won the triple jump (37-07) while helping Valley’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays take second at Catlin Gabel on Thursday. Gray — Valley’s starting all-state point guard and former standout on the baseball diamond, who’s competing in track for the first time this season — cleared 6-01 in the high jump for first place.

Gray’s a freaky kind of athlete who can touch the top of the square on the backboard, and throw down all kinds of highlight reel dunks on the fast break that made him a natural high jump candidate.

The approach is coming along, but the senior already owns the best mark (6-03) in the Lewis and Clark district, based almost solely on the notion that Gray’s got springs in his calves. Gray said the Valiant coaching staff is helping him understand the basics of the jump: arching his back more, leaning his head back and kicking his legs up so they don’t touch the bar. Mostly, however, it’s just Gray’s enviable hops that have him above the field.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior Wilder Boyden beat a pair of Valiant teammates in the 3,000 versus Catlin Gabel.

“I’ve only practiced this a couple times, so it’s really just explosiveness from basketball,” said Gray. “Just being explosive and athletic gives me an advantage. Once I get the form down it’ll help me even more. Hopefully, I get that down soon.”

Gray has only run the 100-meter dash once at the Valiants’ dual meet with De La Salle, yet he tallied a 12.04 finish that’s good enough for eighth in the district.

“I figured I’d just try (track), have fun with it and that’s what I’ve been doing,” said Gray. “I would have been out here anyways, being with the guys, but doing well is really what’s pushing me to try every time.”

Menkens is in his second year of track, and said he drifted toward the sport to “stay athletic and active” for football and basketball. This year the junior wants to place high at districts in the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, triple jump and the short relay.

Currently, Menkens is fourth in the district in each of his individual events, and just behind teammate Tysen Prunty in both hurdle races. Having somebody to hunt is useful, Menkens said, but if there’s one event that he’d like to beat his good friend in, it’s the 300 hurdles.

Menkens set a personal record with a flat 34-second time in the 300’s last week despite knocking over a hurdle and “jumping too high” over another barrier.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior JD Menkens won the triple jump and helped both Valiant relays place second overall.

“I just hope one of these days I can push out a time and either be right with him or maybe pass him,” said Menkens. “After (the 300 hurdles) let’s just say it feels awful. By the time you get to the end, you’re just hoping you have enough energy to jump over the hurdle and not crash. You just have to keep jumping to make sure you’re not wiping out at the end because you’re definitely drained.”

Being an acrobatic leaper can actually be a drawback in the hurdles, mentioned Menkens, because he tends to hop over the barricades rather than glide over the top

“I go a lot higher than the other guys, so every time I jump, I lose a little time,” said Menkens. “But, it definitely helps me be able to sprint, and that’s how I was able to PR. I run as fast as I can. As long as I can push it, I can stay with some of the guys.”

The triple jump is new to Menkens, having only competed in the event for the first time last week. To contend at the district meet, Menkens said his marks have to be in the 38’ range.

Freshman Jacob Godshalk won the 800 (2:08) while junior Wilder Boyden took first in the 3,000 (9:47) over freshman teammates Phillip Borlet (9:48) and Seancarlos Gonzalez (9:48). Kazuma Lane won the shot put (34-09), javelin (151-11) and took second in the discus (110-08) for the Valiants, who beat Portland Christian, 48.5-39.

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