McKennan Cronbaugh already was a two-time state champion in the long jump, yet with less than a month before the state meet her coach wanted her to change her form in a major way. Cronbaugh not only accepted the advice with aplomb, she put it to work and finished her senior season with her third championship in a row Friday.
Cronbaugh soared 19 feet, 1 inch to win the event by 7¾ inches over Urbandale’s Lexus Lovan. City’s Kiera Washpun was third at 18-2½.
“It means a whole lot,” Cronbaugh said. “Being a three-time state champion in long jump means the world to me.”
The Iowa record is 19-5 set by Cedar Rapids Washington’s LaNeisha Waller in 2003. This puts Cronbaugh fifth on the all-time list. Only six girls have jumped 19 feet in Iowa history.
“We changed her form after the Drake Relays to bring her knees up straight underneath her instead of swinging her around,” West coach Mike Parker said. “She just wasn’t having time to get them all the way out in front of her.”
Parker watched film after the Relays of other long jumpers, and at the next practice he offered a complete overhaul of a state champion.
“It was (a challenge) at first, but I didn’t really know what he was asking me to do,” she said. “I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ Then he showed me videos of (Olympic gold medalist) Brittney Reese and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to jump like her.’ So we got the springboard out so I would have more height to try and adjust my form. That helped.”
It might be the equivalent of a golfer overhauling a swing a month before the biggest tournament of the year.
“I trust him,” Cronbaugh said. “I wasn’t worried about it.”
So here she was, the favorite but trying on a whole new look.
“Even when she was warming up we had to make several adjustments because she was over the board,” Parker said. “She looked as fast as we’ve seen her down the runway. The first jump she was probably 4 inches behind the board, but she had greater height than I’ve ever seen her go.”
The second jump was the one.
“I just had my steps on point, and I had really good height, and my coach just told me to get up in the air and kick your feet out, put your knees to your chest, and that’s what I did,” Cronbaugh said. “I could tell. I was like, ‘Oh I was up in the air a long time on that one.’ “
When Cronbaugh heard 19 feet, 1 inch, she jumped in the air and pumped her fists.
“It was a happy dance,” she said. “A very, very happy dance.”
“McKennan is a very flamboyant person when she is excited,” Parker said, grinning. “This is her thing. This is a girl who did cross country in the fall so that she could lift weights and train for this day. Not too many sprinters will do cross country for one day in May.”