In the world of high jumping, the third time isn’t a charm so much as a pressure cooker.
And that’s what Blake Wehr thrives on — pressure.
Wehr must have felt the heat last Thursday, and it wasn’t just from the Jacksonville, Fla., temperature and humidity. Wehr stared at a bar set at 1.95 meters (just under 6 feet, 5 inches), knowing it was his third and last attempt at clearing that height, with an all-American slot at stake in the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.
Now that’s pressure.
“It was awesome,” Wehr told the Riverhead News-Review. “I love that, though. I feel I’m definitely a competition jumper, so I think I’m much better with competition. With pressure, I feel like that’s when I’m at my best normally.”
Wehr responded to the moment. The 18-year-0ld Wading River man made the height, which ultimately put him in a tie for sixth place among 41 jumpers in the men’s 17-18 division, making him an all-American for the second time in three years.
“Normally I’m not too good at third attempts, but this year, I’m not entirely sure why, but I feel like I’m able to keep composed and really focus on what I want to do,” he said. “Third attempts, I really feel like to some degree the training doesn’t matter. You can throw it out the door on the third attempt. Normally, for me at least, I feel like I can will myself over the bar. I feel like sometimes it really comes down to how bad you really want it.”
The 6-4 1/2 Wehr, who failed on his three attempts at 2.00 meters (about 6-6 3/4), made his first jumps at 1.80, 1.85 and 1.90 meters. He said he was tired by the time the bar was raised to 1.95 meters. He tried to conserve energy on his first jump at 1.95 and failed. He said he put a lot of energy into his second attempt and the result was “kind of an ugly jump.” His form was breaking down.
Then it was time for the third try. Do-or-die time.
“I knew that that was it,” he said. “I had to make it.”
Wehr, competing as an unattached athlete, tied with three other jumpers for sixth. Shyhiem Jamal Scottland of the 04 Greenville Jets was first at 2.10 meters (about 6-10 1/2).
“I love it,” Wehr said of the national meet. “It’s really cool. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a cool feeling knowing that it’s the elite of the elite there. All the top jumpers in the country are going to be there and you know you got to be on your game.”
It was quite a way to cap a memorable outdoor season for Wehr, who recently completed his senior year at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Among his achievements this past outdoor season: He set a personal record of 6-10 at the Port Jefferson Steeple Fest; he won league, division, county and Long Island titles; he was selected the Suffolk County Jumper of the Year by coaches and the SWR Athlete of the Year; he represented Team Long Island in the Empire State Classic.
Wehr said he is done with competitions for the summer and will report the first week of September to Monmouth University in New Jersey, where he will jump for the Hawks.
Wehr said he was upset with himself for not doing better than sixth in Jacksonville.
“I wanted to win,” he said. “I’ve never walked into a meet not expecting myself to win. That’s always the goal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to win. There were kids that had a better day than I did, but what are you going to do?”