During a spring where the wind and cold often hampered his ability to launch, the Robbinsville skywalker openly lamented his misfortune at the Mercer County Track Championships. One of the few days above 70 degrees was accompanied by wet grounds, a wet runway and shortly into the meet, a carwash-like deluge.
“He freaked out,” said Robbinsville head coach John Hutchinson. “The conditions were not good.”
The mushy grounds resulted in the postponement of several events including the shot put and javelin, so just imagine the concerns when you are attempting to catapult yourself high enough to clear a modest single-family home. Already chaffed from a poor day of practice Friday, Hunter had a disposition more foul than the weather.
“It was raining, the wind was blowing sideways and warmups were bad,” Hunter said. “It was almost to the point of being comical to think about jumping.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect much.”
It turned out to be a glorious spring day for Hunter, however. He put up not one, but two personal bests — 16-feet, 2 inches and then 16-6. He broke, and re-broke, his county outdoor record of 15-6½. He recorded the best jump in New Jersey this spring. He cleared 15-6 with a pole he never used before.
Hunter could have been singing in the rain.
On a day which began so rotten, Hunter confidently declared 17 feet within reach by June. If he does that, on deck would be the state record of 17-4½.
“It turned out to be a great day to jump,” Hunter said. “It wasn’t too hot. The wind was out of the southwest so that was no big deal.
“The big thing, though, was that I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to jump. I wish I could think like that at all the big meets. I went out for the fun of it.”
Worries were few because Hunter winning the event was a given. He didn’t even make his first attempt until the bar was sitting at 12 feet.
“Maybe had I come in at my normal height (15 feet) I would have had more attempts at 17 feet,” said Hunter, who vaulted without his personal coach Nick Tyson, who is on the track staff at Lenape. “That was the only thing he (Tyson) might have told me to do differently.”
Hunter’s mindset improved as the meet went on. He used a 15-foot pole to clear 15 feet with ease.
“It felt soft,” he said. “I told myself: ‘that wasn’t too bad … go for it.’”
He cleared 15-6 with a 15-foot, 7-inch pole.
“I never used it to jump a day in my life,” Hunter explained. “When I cleared the bar and looked down, it looked just like it does when I clear14 feet.”
Then came 16-2, to break the 16-1 Jersey best effort of rival Jordan Pacheco of Morris Hills. Then came 16-6 with room to spare.
He hit the bar on all three attempts at 17 feet. On the last jump, the bar got even, taking a divot of skin out of his leg just about the ankle.
“I guess I have a little work to do,” Hunter said. “I have the height, now I need the confidence. I have two weeks before sectionals.
“Seventeen feet is going to happen after today. They took some time to adjust the stanchions and I lost some adrenaline.”
So as he sat in his folding chair holding court with friends and foes only steps from his runway starting point, Hunter had regained his sky’s-the-limit state of mind.
“I think the stanchions at Monmouth Regional (the sectional site) only go up to 16-6,” he noted.
And without saying it, there was no doubt Hunter wondered if they will be high enough.