We have another Santa Cruz County athlete competing in the Track and Field Trials this week. Aptos and UC San Diego graduate Stephanie LeFever today will take a run at reaching Sunday’s long jump final. She says if she can repeat or come close to her personal record of 21 feet, 3 inches, she should make it. Let’s hope so!
By Julie Jag
As Aptos High graduate Stephanie LeFever steps on the runway today to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, the question has to be asked:
What would have happened if she had found the long jump earlier?
“I actually didn’t try it until my senior year of high school. It wasn’t my specialty event,” said LeFever, who held five school records when she graduated in 2007, including ones in the hurdles and pole vault. “After I tried it, I really wanted to keep long jumping.”
LeFever got her wish, in a way. Following older sister Donna to the University of San Diego, she became a heptathlete, mixing long jump in with the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 dash, 800 run and javelin.
Tritons head coach Darcy Ahner admits she didn’t know LeFever had such little long jump experience. It certainly didn’t show in competition, she said.
“It was pretty evident her first year that that was her best and favorite event,” Ahner said. “All the other events she liked, but long jump is where she felt most comfortable. On the long jump runway, that’s where she looks most confident.”
She finished second in heptathlon at the NCAA Division II championships her senior year at UCSD with 5,385 points, but really shined in the long jump. She took second in the individual event and set the program record with a leap of 20 feet, 3.5 inches.
LeFever decided she didn’t want to stop with that record jump. So, she spoke to Ahner about training for one year after graduation in long jump alone.
“I thought I had more there, so I wanted to see how far I could go,” said LeFever, who trains with a group of three other graduates and the Tritons current team.
Already, it’s farther than she dared imagine. In a meet in Chula Vista on June 14, the last meet in which she could qualify for the Olympic Trials, LeFever jumped 21-3 — an entire foot farther than her collegiate PR.
That mark got her into the trials as No. 18 of 24 qualifying long jumpers, and she said she thinks it’s good enough to take her to Sunday’s final if she can do it again.
“I think I will definitely go to the final if I jump that,” said LeFever, who needs to finish in the top 12 to advance. “I have been looking at other marks and people haven’t been doing their best.”
This year, LeFever is only looking to do her best. With Brittany Reese, a fifth-place finisher in Beijing 2008, jumping 23-8 and several others going over 22-0, a top-three finish and Olympic berth is a far reach this year. But, LeFever has already decided she’ll keep training next year and could set her sights on 2016.
“That’s definitely something that would be really cool if I could do it,” she said.