Sadie McMullen eyed the long red runway that ended where the sandpit began. She stood tall and powerful and wore a face of intense concentration; eyes glazed over in focus, a slight frown, her mind clearly calculating every step between where she stood, and where she intended to take off like a rocket.
Her long brunette ponytail dangled by her shoulders while the earth seemed to move a little slower in this moment, the one before what comes after.
In the long jump there's a moment of waiting for the athlete to take off, the sprint down the runway, and then... liftoff. Everything after that seems like a formality, because not much can be done one they're airborne - from the spectators eye - but in reality what comes after is what makes the difference between winning, losing, a personal best, or a dusting off of sand-filled disappointment.
Across the track just 20 meters away on the other side of the fence was an entourage of loyal supporters, quiet, anxious, and eager for the Valor Christian junior to do what she's rapidly become good at: jumping far, very far.
A week earlier she went 19-2 for a state-leading mark, and a US No. 12 in the event. It was her first time over 19 feet, and she proved Saturday morning inside Jeffco Stadium that it wouldn't be the last.
But in this moment McMullen wasn't thinking about the past, or even the present, she was seeing the field. She eyed a space somewhere distant in the sand where she intended to land like a baseball player eyeing the stands where they intend to send their home-run, and then, she was off.
She took big strides and ate of precious amounts of track, arms swinging, pulling her forward and pushing her from behind. She counted her steps before liftoff, not even glazing down at the two white stripes that could erase any big jump. No, not here, in this moment, McMullen was in it now.
The real estate beneath her feet was quickly running out and as she approached the end of the runway all eyes were her and what was about to come next - the after.
McCullen took one more powerful step and then...
3...2...1... We have liftoff.
She soared through the air, lifting her arms above her head as if grabbing a piece from the sky to keep her in flight just a moment longer. For that moment she defied gravity, oh what a rebel. The moment hung in the air, dead silence, despite the world churning on everywhere else, and then she came back to earth.
19-0.75 feet from takeoff McMullen landed near the end of the sandbox, sending out a explosion of sand in all directions. Her ponytail dangled in front of her now as her arms kept her forward, this jump would count.
The entourage let out a collective gasp, followed by cheers, knowing that it was a big, big jump.
The mark stood as a victory for McMullen, and would be the second-best jump in Colorado behind her own 19-2 from a week earlier. That's two-for-two over 19-feet for the Valor Christian junior.
The long jump was one of many, many, big performances coming out of the Jeffco 4A/5A Championships this past weekend. League champions were crowned, records were broken, and when the dust settled one thing was certain: Everyone is ready for State.