Cayden Spencer-Thompson has a lofty goal this winter, and he’s already soaring great distances toward that achieving it.
The 17-year-old Mattanawcook Academy junior from Lincoln posted the best indoor triple jump ever recorded by a Maine high school athlete Sunday with an effort of 48 feet, 3½ inches during the Greater Boston Track Club Invitational meet held at Gordon Track on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Spencer-Thompson’s effort, on his third attempt of the day, marked the first time a Maine high school triple jumper has ever surpassed 48 feet indoors and ranks fifth-best nationally in the event so far this season.
“(Two weeks) ago I had a 46-6¼ and was well behind the (starting) board so I was losing a foot,” he said, referring to his first indoor meet of the year at the Dartmouth Relays in Hanover, New Hampshire. “I knew if I got that mark down I was going to pop something big and eventually that happened.I was pretty excited.”
What left Spencer-Thompson even more optimistic was that his new standard wasn’t really even his best effort of the day.
“I did 48-0 on my last jump but was behind the board by six to eight inches,” he said.
Spencer-Thompson already has qualified for the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory in New York City on March 19, and a top-six finish there would earn him his season’s ambition — All-America status.
He believes he will need a leap in the high 48-foot or low 49-foot level to achieve that goal.
“I’m actually very close,” he said.
Specializing in variety
Spencer-Thompson defies the trend toward sports specialization among elite high school athletes — he was riding home from Boston with cousin and training coach David Nantkes on Monday morning with plans to be ready for Mattanawcook Academy’s varsity basketball game at Central of Corinth that night.
Spencer-Thompson is a starting forward for coach Lucas Turner’s Lynx, currently 7-4 and ranked sixth in Class C North.
He also is a starting wide receiver for the Lynx’ football team, which finished 6-4 last fall after reaching the Class D North semifinals.
“I have the most fun in football playing-wise, that’s a pretty fun sport,” said Spencer-Thompson. “There’s nothing like it. You get to catch the ball and run and hit people and have everyone cheer for you. It’s just a different kind of sport versus basketball and track.”
Thompson sees his other sports complementing his efforts on the track, where he is also the reigning Class C state champion outdoors in the triple jump — his 47-3 jump last June stands as the official state record — and long jump, where he went on to finish second in the Emerging Elite division at the 2017 New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
“I never really stop doing a sport, I never really stop working at it,” said Spencer-Thompson. “I just keep continuing to do track during basketball season, and doing the two sports really helps out.”
Those dual athletic loyalties can create scheduling challenges, particularly when it comes to making time for individual track workouts.
“Whenever I can get a workout in I go down to the UMaine rec center and work out at the sports facility there,” he said. “After school or after a (basketball) practice I’ll try to get down there, and usually I get two or three workouts in a week.”
Spencer-Thompson’s indoor track emphasis is solely on the triple jump this winter, in part to minimize the stress on his body while also playing basketball.
The triple jump also is his favorite track and field event.
“Anyone can long jump, you just run in a straight line and then jump once,” he said. “The high jump’s a little different, you run in a curve and then jump, but the triple jump is the real test. You don’t just run and jump once. You don’t just jump twice, you jump three times and you’ve got to keep your balance and you’ve got to keep your strength. It’s not the easiest thing to do. It’s really a task for me to see how well I can do it and stay good at it.”
Seeing is believing
Spencer-Thompson’s rapid triple jump progression through his first two meets of this winter has come as somewhat of a surprise after he improved three feet from the beginning to the end of the 2016-17 indoor season.
“He started out this season a foot and a half farther than he did in his first meet last year,” said Nantkes. “Quite honestly, if he comes close to duplicating what he did last year he could be close to 50 feet as a high school junior and that’s really unheard of.”
The 6-foot-3-inch, 160-pound Spencer-Thompson — also the cousin of former Maine schoolgirl track star Tia Tardy, now a freshman at Division I Bucknell University — has achieved that improvement with just a modicum of strength training.
“My weakness right now is strength,” he said. “I’m growing still so I just need to keep up with my body, keep working out and build my muscles up.”
Spencer-Thompson sees much of his triple-jumping success even before he reaches the runway for the sprint toward the landing pit.
“I pretty much visualize what I’m going to do while I’m in the air,” he said. “I visualize what my jump is going to be and then I go over any mistakes I’ve made and fix them in my head before I jump.
“I do it over and over until I have the perfect jump in my head and then I try to recreate it.”
Those who follow track and field in Maine see a bright future for Spencer-Thompson, who will compete in two more indoor meets this winter — the New England USATF Championships at Harvard on Feb. 18 and the Maine USATF Championships at UMaine on Feb. 25 — before focusing on the nationals.
“He looks like a boy among men when he’s standing up there with those other jumpers, he’s 160 pounds and they look like NFL wide receivers,” Nantkes said. “But if you watch the videos it’s like he’s floating because his form is flawless.
“When he does gain 15 or 20 pounds, I don’t even know what the limit is at that point.”
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