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SWR senior high jumps to first place at Ocean Breeze Elite Invitational

One year and six days later, high jumper Blake Wehr found himself in the same arena for another big indoor track and field meet, only this time the circumstances were entirely different.

Perhaps feeling as if he had some unfinished business after what he regarded as disappointment at the 2020 New York State Indoor Track and Field Championships, Wehr returned to Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island Saturday for the Ocean Breeze Elite Invitational.

Unlike the last time he was at Ocean Breeze at last year’s indoor state meet, when the arena was packed with spectators — so many that some were sitting on steps — no spectators were permitted Saturday. Thank you, COVID-19.

A little strange, huh?

“It’s beyond weird,” Wehr said. “I think one of my favorite parts of the high jump is having that reaction, having that excitement of people being there and cheering me on.”

The Shoreham-Wading River High School senior had no shortage of motivation, though. Facing quality competition, he rose over the bar time and time again, including his second attempt at 6 feet, 6 inches, bringing him first place and within one inch of his personal record. He edged second-place Calvin Finger (6-6) by a tiebreaker. Finger didn’t clear 6-6 until his third attempt.

“I’m not going to say I’m disappointed, but I definitely expect more from myself,” Wehr said. “Being that close to a pr, I think it’s always the same mentality that there’s always the next bar and there’s always the next height I could have gotten, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed.”

That wasn’t the case at last year’s state indoor meet, when Wehr came in fourth place among public school high jumpers and fifth in the Federation, which includes private schools. The two medals and All-State status he earned that day helped ease the sting a bit, but still …

The winter state championships were canceled this year because of the pandemic.

Like all the other high jumpers Saturday, Wehr’s opening height was 5-10. He handled that on his first attempt as he did 6-0, 6-2 and 6-4.

A week earlier, Wehr took first at a meet in Kentucky with a height of 6-6.

Since making 6-7 last year in a state qualifying meet at Suffolk County Community College on his birthday, Wehr has been flirting with equaling or bettering that mark. It hasn’t been easy, though, with limited training opportunities because of the pandemic.

This past winter season, all dual meets were held outdoors, and Wehr soared as high as 6-4 on a “brutal” day in which he said the temperature felt as if it was 18 degrees.

The 6-4 1/2, lean, long-legged Wehr is built to high jump. He said he is stronger and bigger than he was a year ago. He said he worked out with weights in his basement and ran outdoors.

Wehr wants to high jump in college, but hasn’t made his college choice yet. It’s a promising future for an athlete who, interestingly, signed up as a sprinter when he first came out for the SWR team. That was before he caught the eye of SWR’s high jumping coach, Paul Anderson.

Wehr said: “I owe a lot to Coach Anderson … He’s a great man. I tell everybody that he knows everything. He’s like Yoda.”

Next up for Wehr is the spring season, which starts April 26. He said his focus is on taking a step back to soak in all the moments of his final season with the Wildcats.

He said, “I’m just happy to jump.”