Gila Ridge’s Walter thriving in high jump, pole vault

It wasn’t the most enjoyable cross country season for Gila Ridge junior Malibu Walter this past fall.

Distance running was growing tiresome – and the results weren’t great, either – so on one of the first days of track practice this season, when Gila Ridge coach Lucas Wolthuis opened up any events that the Hawks wanted to try, Walter decided to give high jump and pole vault a shot.

The provisional state qualifying marks she’s put up this season in both events is evidence enough that she made the right decision.

“Distance (running) was getting frustrating, so I decided why not try it?” Walter said. “Cross country was a rough season. I didn’t have the mental toughness for it. I have the gymnast background so I wanted to try something new and the same technique in gymnastics is in high jump, for the most part. Lots of jumping and bending going up.”

Walter had done gymnastics since she was three but stopped competing in 2010, when her family moved to Alberta, Canada for three years. According to Wolthuis, Walter is a level-10 gymnast – the highest before it reaches the national level.

“I knew that she had a gymnast background, but I didn’t know until this year just how advanced she was,” he said. “It’s huge implications for body control, balance – everything that gymnasts have is what applies to high jump and pole vault.

“For such a little thing, you wouldn’t expect her to jump as high as she does and with such perfect form when she does. If you watch her high jump, it’s absolutely flawless when she goes over and she just bounces off the mat and gets going again.”

It didn’t take long for the Hawks coaches to realize that Walter was a natural in high jump. After the graduation of Desiree Dilworth and Quiana Tatum left a void in the event for the Hawks, Walter started the year jumping around 4 feet, 2 inches.

A week later, she was jumping 4-10.

“That’s when we understood that we had a lot in her that we didn’t realize,” Wolthuis said.

Walter took first place with a jump of 4-10 in the London Bridge Rotary Invitational in Lake Havasu on March 29 and was tied for fourth place with teammate Brooklyn Hill to help Gila Ridge girls win the Valley Classic this past Saturday at Alhambra High School.

The jump of 4-10 places her 19th in the state at Division II.

In pole vault, she’s officially cleared 7-0 but she made 8-6 in a local meet on Wednesday and still has two meets left to get a state-qualifying mark.

It hasn’t been an easy transition from high jump to pole vault for the unusually footed Walter, either. She jumps off her left foot for the pole vault and her right foot for the high jump.

“I’ve had to learn how to work with both my legs,” she said with a laugh.

All season long, with the Hawks racking up first place finishes, Wolthuis has said the Gila Ridge girls could be a contender for a state championship this year. With a pack of seniors near the top of every race – Paeden Jackson, Madison Haynes, Haylee Dahl to name a few – Wolthuis praised Walter’s ability to pick up points in different events. Last season, Walter was a part of the 3,200-meter relay that took fourth, and it’s possible she’ll be in another Hawks relay this season, too.

“My mindset is to go in to win, but it’s definitely about the team – not the individual,” Walter said.

Wolthuis said he’s excited about the possibility that next season Walter could compete strongly at the state level as a senior. While Walter has provided a diversity of events for the Hawks, the Hawks’ coach said it was her attitude that’s been a major asset in the drive to a strong team finish when the state tournament kicks off in the second week of May.

“Even more important than the options is to have kids that are willing to try new things,” he said. “The fact that she’s trying high jump for the first time and pole vault for the first time, just her willingness to compete in whatever the team needs, it sets a positive example for the underclassmen and sets the precedent that it’s the team first.”




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