Easton Colborn stood up on his tippy toes, ran into a curve and jumped over a high-jump bar before landing on the cushion.
Colborn had just cleared a high-jump bar of 4 feet, 2 inches at the AAU Region 16 Qualifier in Tulsa, Okla. on June 30, the last AAU track meet until the season’s biggest one of them all.
This upcoming year’s Royster Middle School student participated in five events on Friday, June 28, the long jump on Saturday, June 29, and the high jump on Sunday, June 30, ultimately qualifying for the AAU Junior Olympic Games in East Greensboro, NC, Monday.
The soon-to-be sixth-grader was a part of an AAU track team based out of Girard. The twice-a-week practices, which include commuting from Chanute to Girard thanks to Colborn’s mom and dad, worked dividends for Colborn during his five meets on Saturdays; the meets started in late March. The Holcomb native’s meets were in Cheney, Girard, El Dorado, Independence and Tulsa.
In Cheney, Colborn, 12, cleared 4 foot (third place); in Girard (first place), El Dorado (third place) and Independence (third place), where he cleared over a bar of 4 feet, 4 inches; and in Tulsa (fourth place), where he cleared 4 foot, 2 inches.
While Colborn excelled in AAU track, there is a reason he’s even in track to begin with.
Last year’s Chanute Elementary School student first started track at Holcomb Elementary School as a third-grader in 2016. Kent Teeter, a football coach at Holcomb High School, organized a four-day track camp with all events for kindergarten to sixth-graders. At the end of the camp, there was a mini-track meet.
Colborn was already involved in basketball, baseball, football and wrestling, but the track camp made him fall in love with high jumping thanks to Teeter’s and high schoolers’ training.
“They had some of the high schoolers help out with just how to do it, demonstrate how,” Colborn said, “but they really didn’t teach us the technique and all that.”
The next three years, though, Colborn didn’t continue track; rather, he just did football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.
In January 2018, Colborn’s family moved to Chanute, and through family and community relationships, the multisport athlete found out about AAU track. The love for track rekindled, and Colborn said running sparked this love.
“I did a lot of 5Ks, and I heard there was a track team; I wanted to try it this year,” Colborn continued.
Ready to embark on this new AAU track journey starting in March, Colborn met Matt Brown, a Pittsburg native who coaches Pittsburg State’s track team, and Nate Clevenger, a Girard native, the two AAU Girard-based track coaches.
After meeting the coaches and practicing for the first time, Colborn already had a goal: to advance to the AAU Junior Olympics. So, Colborn dedicated himself to gleaning some knowledge from the coaches.
“Coach Clevenger taught technique and how far you’re supposed to go and what leg to jump off of,” Colborn said. “He would help me go into rhythm like ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5’ to help me get a five-step so I’m not stutter stepping so much.”
Brown also gave Colborn advice.
“Coach Brown gave me the advice of when the bar gets higher, it would be harder to get close up to jump it, so he would always tell me to ‘move back a shoe or move up a shoe,’” Colborn said.
Coaches have their way of preparing their athletes, and parents have their own way.
“We cheer him on, make sure he gets to practices,” Monica Colborn, Easton’s mom, said. “If he has a rough meet, we make sure he doesn’t get discouraged. If he has a bad jump, we’re like ‘hey, they’re not perfect all the time and just keep trying.’ Dad (Dustin Colborn) and I aren’t track. Dad’s a baseball guy and I’m a swimmer, so this was new to us. It was a learning experience for us as family. We just encourage him.”
And the encouragement came full circle.
Teeter, who happened to be at the Tulsa meet because his daughter participates in javelin, was able to watch Colborn. It was fitting for Teeter to watch as he was responsible for organizing the track meet in which Easton first tried out high jumping.
“We literally bumped into each other and he came over and watched Easton jump too,” Monica said. “That was kind of special because Coach Teeter put on that first track meet that Easton tried out high jumping. Just by chance, he happens to be there and watches and sees him.”
Colborn’s family clapped and cheered on.
Colborn’s parents came up to congratulate him, hugging Colborn on a job well done, along with other competitors parents, too.
“I’m so proud of him; it’s hard work, a lot of practice and there are kids his age who are a whole foot taller than him, and there was a 5-foot-10 kid who was 12, and he didn’t let that discourage him,” Monica recalled. “Easton’s kind of small, but we always say big things come in small packages. Small but mighty. We are just so proud of him for having the drive and the dedication.”
Colborn finished 25th out of 55 high-jumpers on Monday afternoon in the AAU Junior Olympics after springing 4 feet, 3 1/4 inches.