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Friday, May 6, 2016

Struck Strikes Out : McAreavy high jump something to see

Friday, May 16, 2008

Head on. Apply directly to the forehead.

If that's the annoying mantra for Galva-Holstein high jumper Patrick McAreavy, few could fault him, for that's the way this track and field entrepreneur performs his high-jumping technique.

In a world full of "Fosbury floppers," the dominant high-jump style around the globe since 1968 when American Richard Fosbury captivated the world and his sport by winning the Gold Medal in Mexico City, McAreavy continues to march to his own drummer by running straight at the high jump bar and diving head first over the bar, somersaulting through the air, and landing flat on his back with his legs and hands splayed.

It's a goofy looking style that Patrick himself terms "weird," and his teammates tease him good-naturedly by calling him the "Cannon Ball Kid."

"At first, everybody laughed at me," said McAreavy, a Pirate junior. "They thought it was weird. I thought it was weird. My sisters (Maddy, a G-H senior, and Annie a freshman - both acclaimed track and field performers in their own right) thought it was weird. My coaches thought it was weird. But now, after they see how I'm jumping higher, they all think it's really cool. Now, there are big crowds at track meets watching me jump."

Patrick started high jumping for the first time this season and used the Fosbury Flop style, like everyone else does. His best jump was 5-2, which won't win very many meets.

Dick Fosbury "flopping" in the Sixties
He had goofed around in practice running straight at the high-jump bar and diving over after jumping off both feet simultaneously. Then, at a later track meet at Battle Creek-Ida Grove, Patrick thought "what the hay?" and tried it on one of his official jumps, only this time leaping off just his left foot. Bingo! He soared 5-10 and earned third place. He's been consistently hitting 5-10 since then and placed third in subsequent meets and finished third in the Maple Valley Conference meet.

In the Fosbury Flop style, jumpers approach the bar from a 45-degree angle from either the right or left sides, plant their right foot for take-off when coming from the right side, and their left foot when approaching from the left side. They then clear the bar backwards, their arms out or straight up and out, and land on their back and tailbone in the pit.

"I basically curl up in a ball and flip over the bar," said McAreavy. "I went 5-4 jumping off both feet at the same time, and then I went 5-10 when I used just my left leg to spring off of. That's the way I do it every time, now."

After first jumping with them extended, Patrick now curls his hands to his chest when jumping and sometimes extends them when landing, and other times, not. "It's all about focusing on the bar, my take-off, and curling head-first over the bar in the air," explained the son of Morgan and Mary McAreavy of Holstein.

Galva-Holstein's Pat McAreavy goes over the bar head-first in recent action. Photo by Paul Struck
Patrick says he has no plans to change his style and will keep practicing and polishing his jumps, with the goal of clearing six feet and hopefully beyond.

Fifty years ago, high jumpers used the scissor-legs style, staying upright so they could land on their feet in the hard-packed sand pits of the time. As years passed, styles like the straddle, barrel roll and Western roll dominated as the deep foam landing pits appeared, enabling jumpers to become more adventurous and land on their backs.

Then came Dick Fosbury and his famous flop that took over the event and still rules today, 40 years later.

And, here comes Patrick McAreavy's style in 2008 and we pause to wonder what, if any, impact might he have on tomorrow's jumpers.

As yet, Patrick said he hasn't yet named his jump, but that he's "working on it."

Maybe we can help... The Pat Plop? The Hip Flip? The McAreavy Gravy? Don't Try This At Home? Head on? Holstein Header? Head Over Heels?

McAreavy will try to qualify for the State Track & Field Championships in the Class 1A Districts at Galva-Holstein Saturday. If he makes state, heads will turn, including his, at Drake Stadium in Des Moines at 2 p.m. Friday when the 1A field jumps.

Good luck, Patrick!

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