PARKER CITY – At one level, Megen Yates understood exactly what was happening. The Monroe Central high jumper was competing at the Ben Davis Regional last season when the official called her into a meeting, along with Lawrence Central’s Kayla Smith and Ben Davis’ Erynn Young.
The three athletes were told they would be the top three finishers in the event at the regional, so they would be the three jumpers to advancing to the state meet. There was still more competing to be done that night to determine placing, but Yates, Smith and Young were each headed to state. While Yates understood the words coming out of the official’s mouth, it was hard to process.
“It was kind of surreal, actually,” Yates said. “They called the top three over and just discussed what was going to happen. I didn’t really feel like I was there, but I knew I was. It was really cool.”
Yates ended up finishing third that day, jumping 5-foot-3. She finished in a tie for 15th at state, also jumping 5-3 there. She was a junior, and it was her first appearance at state.
As coach Pam Howell looks back on Yates’ junior season, she said Yates didn’t seem to realize her potential in advance of her appearance at state. Howell credits Danae Deckman, who began working as Yates’ high jump coach last season, with helping her unleash that potential by helping Yates improve her form.
Howell also said the experience of Yates going to state was somewhat surreal. She could see the jumper’s improvement as the season went well, and the numbers dictated it was a possibility. But Howell has coached the Golden Bears for more than 30 years, with state qualifiers being few and far between, so it seemed more real when Yates was actually competing.
Returning for her senior season, Yates is keenly aware of her potential. She holds the school record at 5-4 1/2, a mark she set last season. This season, she wants to jump 5-8, and she said being a returning state qualifier has made her more intent on reaching her goals. It’s a goal Howell believes is realistic. Howell smiles at the thought of what Yates might be capable of this season.
“Yeah, I do, yeah,” Howell said. “Watching her down at state, she was smooth, she was slick. She had form, she had everything, she was clearing it. She was making the other girls go, ‘Who the heck is she?’ “
Yates picked up high jumping after watching her older sister, Kristen Maurer, compete.
Yates has tried several activities her older sister once did, and she still plays flute in the school band, as her sister did. But when it comes to sports, high jump is what took off. She likes the individual nature of it and the self-motivation it requires.
“It was the one I enjoyed the most, and actually the one I’ve had the most success in,” Yates said.
At a recent practice, Yates doesn’t need any help to get motivated. After some warmup drills with the entire team in the school’s auxiliary gymnasium, she heads out to the track with the rest of the squad. As various groups of athletes go their separate ways, she heads for the high jump area by herself on a windy day. She sets up the equipment and gets to work, first standing with her back in front of a cord that functions as the bar and working on the form of clearing the mark. Then she steps back and goes through more of a stride before jumping.
Eventually, Yates is joined by the team’s other high jumper, Morgan Haney, a junior who elected to come back to the sport after not participating in her sophomore year. Haney said she’s enjoyed Yates’ encouraging nature, noting that her senior teammate always seems to have a positive attitude.
She also notes it’s easy to see a determination from Yates as they go through their workouts, with Yates frequently saying they can do one more repetition of the current drill. Even if it’s a hard workout, Yates isn’t averse to upping the ante. Howell points out that Yates uses some of her free time late in the school day to get in extra work during Howell’s physical education class. Given that work ethic, Haney believes going 5-8 this season is a possibility for her senior teammate.
“If she can say it, she can do it, honestly,” Haney said. “She is the type of person that, I think she can make realistic goals. But she is hard-working enough to get to those goals, definitely.”
Contact prep sports reporter Sam Wilson at (765) 213-5807. Follow him on Twitter @SamWilsonTSP.