The Paper photo by Lori Poteet<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Jason Christensen is returning to the state finals as a junior after a disappointing sophomore season that was hindered because of necessary foot surgery.
The Paper photo by Lori Poteet

Jason Christensen is returning to the state finals as a junior after a disappointing sophomore season that was hindered because of necessary foot surgery.
NEW MARKET-The training is a little different two days before the state track meet. Jason Christensen found that out Thursday.

Christensen was the lone Mountie putting work in at Southmont's track this week. That's because he's the only track and field athlete in the county that qualified for the state meet that will take place Saturday at Indiana University.

"I was speechless when I got the call," said the junior high jumper. Christensen did not automatically qualify for state. In order to do that he needed to reach the state qualifying standard of 6-04.75 or place at least third at the regional. He got a callback because his fifth-place regional leap of 6-04 was one of the best in the state to not qualify and the field was not filled yet. "Last year 6-03 won the regional. So I thought that 6-04 would be good there. I didn't expect to get a callback though."

Christensen's best leap in competition this season was 6-05, but he said his goal for the state meet is 6-06. Either of those heights would give him a great shot of being in the top eight and earning a medal and all-state status. The top-seeded individual at state cleared 6-08 in the regional. Three others leapt 6-06 and just two more cleared 6-05 or higher.

Christensen has experience at the state meet. During his seventh and eighth grade years he traveled with his older brother, Jonathon, and watched him win back-to-back state high jump titles as a junior and senior.

The next year, Jason's freshman season, he qualified in the high jump and cleared 6-02, taking 21st as the only freshman in the event. The road back was paved with sacrifice and hard work, said Southmont's head track coach Marvin Walters.

"Jason had to have surgery to remove an extra bone in his left foot after his freshman year," Walters explained. "He had to work hard to get back here. A lot of kids want to eat whatever they want and drink pop and stay up late. He's made the sacrifices to not do those kinds of things. That's the difference many times is the level of sacrifice a kid is willing to make. Jason deserves this opportunity."

Jason's father and personal coach, Randy Christensen, is also the high jump coach for Southmont's team.

"I try to make sure he stays healthy, gets his rest and stays focused," Randy said. "We try to work at various heights. We don't want to jump too much right before the meet."

"It would be awesome to get a medal," said Jason. "I'm feeling really confident going in."

The high jump will begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Indiana University's Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex.