Leap Day

Leap Day
Spring 2020 – The Hill – Sports – Leap Day

High jumper Ryan Fleming ’20 came to Denison to play basketball, so leaping was part of his skillset when he tried out for the track team during his sophomore year. But proper high jumping technique isn’t remotely analogous to, say, dunking. “It’s very technical and hard to get the hang of,” says Fleming, a Tampa Bay native. “But once you get into the rhythm of it, and can break it down piece by piece and focus on each one individually, it becomes a lot of fun to compete.” Fleming has been a quick study: A three-time NCAC team selection, he took first place at the 2019 Indoor NCAC Championship, and his third place finish at the 2020 Indoors Championship helped Denison to a third-place overall finish. We asked Fleming to plot out his path to achieving maximum vertical velocity. Dan Morrell

The Approach
Fleming works out twice a week with sprinters to help develop the necessary burst. Every approach is exactly 10 steps and run on a curve, while tilting his body away from the bar. “The speed that you bring to the bar is what gets added to how hard your foot hits the ground on the jump. You’re trying to bring as much speed as you can, but also have enough control to carry out the acrobatics in the air.”

The Jump
“Your last two steps are about as close together and as fast as they can be—and with as much power as you can bring to fight gravity,” says Fleming. Strength training helps here, as the leg muscles require a massive push. “I plant my right foot into the ground as hard as I can,” says Fleming. “Then I drive my left knee in the air as hard as I can and take flight.”

The Bar
“Once you’re in the air, you have to pause for a second because—as you take off—you’re rotating as that last part of you drives away from the bar,” says Fleming. It may seem like such a short burst of motion, but it requires patience. Rushing to, say, get your chin off your chest and get into your “back bend” will just throw you off-tilt. And even when you’re perfectly curved just so over the bar, there’s more waiting. “I don’t know the exact milliseconds you have to be in that position, but it’s longer than you would think,” says Fleming. Then, the finalé: A snap, flipping your legs over the bar. “And, hopefully, everything is cleared in the end.”

Published May 2020