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UW's first ever Pac-12 Champion in the triple jump, Kasen Covington wants to be the first All-American since 1968.
Covington Going To Great Lengths In Final Year
Release: 04/01/2014
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By Gregg Bell

UW Athletics Director of Writing

 

SEATTLEKasen Covington has leaped to a Huskies’ indoor record.

 

He’s also won a Pac-12 championship outdoors. He’s the first from Washington to do so in his event.

 

But his final, third step – an All-America honor -- is his biggest.

 

That figures. He is a triple jumper. One of the best in the history of Huskies track and field, in fact.

 

“Yeah, I mean that’s the ultimate goal,” Covington said while inside the Dempsey Indoor training facility one week into his final outdoor track season at UW.  “It’s the goal I’ve had since I’ve been here, to take it all the way to the national championships.”

 

To do it he’ll likely have to not only jump farther than he has yet at Washington, he’s going to have to jump back.


To high school, that is.

 

“He hasn’t jumped in college as far as he did in high school,” Bryan Stith said last week over the telephone from Covington’s hometown of Boise, Idaho.


Stith would know. Covington has known him since he was 9 years old, when Kasen and his sister Alyssa – now a graduate-assistant at the University of Idaho after competing in track and field for the Vandals -- showed up in December 2002 for an indoor practice. That was with Stith’s Team Idaho Track and Field club in Boise.

 

Stith, who also became Covington’s coach at CapitalHigh School in Boise, specialized in the triple jump  at Idaho from 1996-2000. He remains Covington’s mentor, consulting with him weekly and training him back home during UW’s school breaks.

 

He has seen Covington triple jump 52 feet, 4 inches. That was on April 3, 2010, while Covington was a two-time Idaho Class 5A state champion and all-class state record holder in the event at Capital High.

 

Still, it’s not to say that Covington has not improved; he has. The 52-4 mark was the only time Covington went over 50-feet in high school, a mark he regularly surpasses now.

 

The former Idaho all-state defensive back in football, has gone as far as 50-9 ½ outdoors for UW. That was the leap last May that made Covington the first Husky to win a Pac-12 outdoor triple-jump championship, though it remained short of the Washington outdoor triple-jump record of 52-5¾ set by Wayne Hinkley in 1975.

 

A couple weeks ago Covington won the indoor equivalent of the Pac-12, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor championship, at the Dempsey with a UW indoor record 51-6½.

 

At his first outdoor meet of the spring on March 22 he soared past the field to win the Trojan Invitational at USC by more than a foot with a 50-5½. Covington also set a personal best in the long jump with a 23-10¼ to finish second in that event in Los Angeles.

 

But Covington, who has done so well at the last two conference meets, has struggled at the NCAA West Prelims, qualifying all three years thus far but never jumping 50-feet at the meet which qualifies the top-12 in the western half of the country to the NCAA finals.

 

So what’s it going to take for him to reach his final Husky goal of an NCAA Outdoor All-America honor, to cap a career in which he’s accomplished just about everything else in the event here?

 

“I know anything over 53 feet will do it,” he says, “which is something that I know I definitely have in me.”

 

The Pac-12’s winning triple-jump marks in the two outdoor championships before Covington won last spring’s were 53 feet, ¾ of an inch and 53-10½.


“It’s just putting the right things together on the right day,” he said. “That’s kind of been my problem. Not much a technique thing. More a mental-consistency thing. Just being in the right frame of mind, the right mood on that day. Not over-thinking it.

 

“I mean, I definitely have the physical tools to be a top-five jumper in the nation. It’s just the fact of just doing it, of getting over my mental block and just going out and doing it.

 KC

Covington atop the podium at the 2013 Pac-12 Championships at USC.

Covington was such an accomplished jumper in high school he told Chris Petersen and his football coaching staff then across town at Boise State – and now at Washington -- that he wasn’t as interested in football. He would stick to track.

 

Idaho offered him the chance to play both sports. He considered WashingtonState and was scheduled to make his final official visit to Tennessee in January of his senior year of high school. But when he visited Washington in December he felt drawn to UW’s renowned academics – plus the chance to establish a new horizontal-jumping legacy inside a Husky track program known far more for vertical jumping such as its recently world-class pole vaulting.

 

He cancelled the visit to Tennessee.

 

Now, four years later, Covington’s is the newest name on the walls of the track team’s locker room. He is immortalized for school records and Pac-12 championships in an event where there’s room at UW to grow.

 

“I know the history of jumps here isn’t too extensive,” Covington said. “To come in here and have my name up on the walls is pretty awesome. … I like the fact that I was able to start maybe a jumping revolution here. I’m hoping local kids can see the success that I’ve been having and want to come here, because I know we’ve been kind of thin in horizontal jumps in the last few years.

 

The Huskies have lacked a Pac-12 contender in the long jump since nine-time All-American Norris Frederick graduated in 2008. “It’d be nice to see this jump program take the next step,” says Covington.

 

Covington admits he was drifting and less committed during his first two years at Washington. And he was in a situation that required self-motivation and initiative. Huskies vault and jumps coach Pat Licari has for more than 16 seasons developed some of the nation's premier pole vaulters, including a two-time Olympian, three NCAA champions with six titles between them, five Pac-12 champions and 11 All-Americans. But coaching the vault, high jump, multi-events, and horizontal jumps meant Licari was spread thin.

“There’s always room to improve,” Covington says. “There are always little things that can get more four more inches in each phase, which equals a foot in the final jump. The possibility for error is huge.”

Two years ago, Eric Metcalf joined UW track as a volunteer jumps coach, in addition to training Puget Sound-area track athletes privately. The 46-year-old native of Seattle starred in football and track at the University of Texas. After winning two NCAA long-jump titles and finishing eighth in the long jump at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials, Metcalf played 13 seasons as a running back and receiver in the NFL.


He has improved both Covington’s jump technique and, most noticeable to Stith, his runway speed. Stith said when he saw films of March’s MPSF indoor finals, “I definitely saw that Kasen’s faster down the runway than he’s ever been.”

 

The sudden, jarring stops, leaps and pounding of the triple jump require a rare ability to turn the awkward into the artistic – while making a huge dent in a triple jumper’s legs and body.

 

“It’s very difficult, a very difficult event, not just mentally by physically with the pounding the body takes,” Stith said. “It does take a toll on your body.”

 

Watching triple jumping in person looks something like a film of a sprint down a runway interrupted by two, inadvertently spliced cuts that stop and restart the run. Then comes a final, lunging leap that appears far more difficult than you believe it should.

 

As Stith says: “It’s such a unique and finicky event.”


Good thing Covington has the rugged physique of the football defensive back he used to be.

 

“It’s really awkward,” Covington said. “I mean, we don’t just go out there and start triple jumping. We have to bound. We have to practice one-legged jumps over 50 yards, times four, on each leg, just getting your body getting used to handling the pressure we put on it.

 

“I think it’s your body trying to rebound something like three times your own body weight. You take all that weight down after you land on your foot again. It definitely takes a lot of hip strength, leg strength – and a little bit of insanity, I think.”

 

The triple jump is an event that can see large, sudden leaps to new plateaus. A few inches improvement in each jump, or phase, of the triple jump can equal a dramatic spike overall.

 

“There’s always room to improve,” Covington says. “There are always little things that can get more four more inches in each phase, which equals a foot in the final jump. The possibility for error is huge.”

 

For now, Covington will earn his American Ethnic Studies degree after this spring quarter. UW’s commencement ceremonies are on the same weekend as the NCAA track and field finals in Eugene, Ore., June 11-14.


Guess where he is hoping to be then.

 

“From the outside looking in, even if I didn’t get All-American people would say I’ve had a great career here. But that’s something that I really want,” Covington said. “If I don’t get it, it’s not going to be the end of the world. It’s not going to be the end of my training. It’s not going to be the end of my life.


“But it’s something that I think I definitely deserve, and it’s something I think I can earn if I put in the right amount of work. And it will definitely define my career, if I do that -- not to say I haven’t done anything already.

 

“To do that would be icing on the cake. That would be … that would be perfect.”

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