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Falls' Robertson sets state triple-jump record

First effort is the winner as senior goes out on a high note

Mikayla Robertson of Menomonee Falls set a state record in the triple jump at 40 feet, 4 inches in the WIAA State Track Championships on Friday in La Crosse.

Mikayla Robertson of Menomonee Falls set a state record in the triple jump at 40 feet, 4 inches in the WIAA State Track Championships on Friday in La Crosse. Photo By Todd Ponath

June 3, 2013

"It took only about two seconds, but it seemed like forever."

That was Menomonee Falls' track jump coach John Katz's assessment of how long the event judge stared at the board at the WIAA State Meet in La Crosse on Friday, before he called Mikayla Robertson's first triple jump of the day fair or foul.

"The judge stared at the board," Katz said, "because Mikayla had used the whole board (and was very close to a foul)."

But then the judge called out "mark" and then called out the distance. That's when Robertson thought she was hearing things.

Forty feet-4 inches.

"To be honest, I didn't think I heard it correctly," Robertson said. "I had been watching flights one and two and I had a hard time hearing the judge (call out the distances largely because of the blustery winds), but then I heard my coaches and my family screaming and then I thought I had gone really, really far.

"I walked over to my coach to see if what I thought I heard was correct and then he told me and I said 'OK, then I did jump that far.'"

And in the process, she wiped away 26 years of history, taking the 1987 mark of 39-53/4 by Lee Ann Majerle of D.C. Everest off the books and putting a bright, new shiny number in its place.

In doing so, Robertson fulfilled her potential, bringing to complete fruition a thought that Katz uttered to himself when he first saw Robertson four years ago as a tall, skinny freshman.

Coach saw potential right away

Katz and Robertson's story is as old as athletics.

A coach finds a precocious young athlete and immediately recognizes the grand potential. Then he or she makes a variation on the same wish, asks the same questions Katz did four years ago: Is something great possible here?

"In practice, every time I let myself believe that she could be the one (to break the record), I would have to tell myself, I'm just one of how many coaches over the last 26 years who have believed this same idea," Katz said.

"What makes me actually believe that she could be the special one? I could justify in my head the idea of her winning (a state title), but there was just that question in my head 'Could she be that special person?'"

Well now she is.

In doing so, Robertson becomes only the second Menomonee Falls girl to win a state track title (Mary Liermann of Falls East won in the shot put in 1977) and now joins the boys' 800-meter relay team of 2010 in the state record books.

And her head coach Andy Eisenbach said there's a very good reason for Robertson's success and you can see it in the intense focus in Robertson's eyes when she's at the height of competition, whether on the basketball court (a two-time NOW All-Suburban selection) or on the track.

"A few weeks ago, before we had made the decision of what she was going to do (in the state series of meets), I was walking with her and John (after a practice)," Eisenbach said. "It had been raining and we had gotten into the auxillary gym and I asked her: 'What is your goal? Do you want to win state? And if you do, what are you going to do and what do you need from us to make it happen?'

"And then we started walking through it."

Just something to do

In Robertson's eyes, it was all something that started in the seventh grade, when she took up this oldest of Olympic track events, originally known as the "hop, skip and jump," as just something to do.

"In fact, I didn't even start out high school with it, but then I went to a junior varsity meet and they had me do it and I went something like 33 feet and then 35 at sectionals (before placing fourth at state as a freshman)," she said.

She was hooked, and Robertson became a student of the event. An enormously talented 400 runner (she has run in the state-level 58-second range), she studied meticulously a video that the coaches had made of her jumping technique, looking for any flaws.

"I spent extra time with the coaches, trying to improve the little things," she said. "Like how to run down the runway, working hard to keep my butt from skidding in the sand and how high my knee should be in a given place. Little things like that. I kept studying that video until my technique was perfect.

"I just kept practicing until I did what I was supposed to do."

Katz said the key was evening out all of Robertson's phases. She did that so well Friday that even her second jump of 39-73/4 was beyond the old record.

Skipping 400 helped

It was a far turn from last season, when she entered as one of the favorites, wound up finishing third, but went home from La Crosse with the idea that something had been left behind. In 2012 she had also qualified for the 400 and the heats were also the same time as the triple jump.

She knows that last year she probably left her best triple jump on the track with the 400.

"It was a blessing in disguise (this year)," she said. "I was bummed that I didn't qualify (for state) in the 400, but I remember last Friday a girl who was in the same position I was last year, having to run from the 400 to the triple jump and I just said to myself, 'I'm glad that's not me.'"

But she's now the one holding the record. Holding court with the press shortly thereafter, she became effusive, wide-eyed and imaginative.

"That first jump, I didn't know what to do afterwards," she said. "All I could remember was, all my coaches, family and friends telling me to go out there and do something amazing. ... I just felt in the zone. I went into this with the idea of just getting a PR (and maybe winning). Now I'm so happy."

The funny thing afterward that this future Air Force cadet, who plans to go into the medical field (her mother is a family practice physician), wasn't able to control her own story. By the time she got to dinner and texted her coaches at the Academy, they were already in the process of congratulating her.

Eisenbach was happy to look at the big picture.

"This is a moment the whole community and team can share," he said. "Falls does get behind its athletes."

Especially someone who fulfills their potential.

STATE CHAMP

Mikayla Robertson was a fixture at state in the triple jump.

ROBERTSON'S STATE RECORD: 2010 — fourth, 36-111/4; 2011 — sixth, 36-71/4; 2012 — third, 37-63/4; 2013 — first, 40-4 (new state record)

ALSO AT STATE: Junior pole vaulter Samantha Madrzak came into the meet with a height of 10-6 out of sectionals and was clearing 10-0 in warm-ups but had a hard time in the actual event, failing to clear a height. "I think she'll learn from this," head coach Andy Eisenbach said.

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