About the only thing that can slow Cayden Spencer-Thompson these days is an unpredictable bus schedule.
That was the challenge facing the high-flying Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln junior late Monday afternoon as he waited in a Boston bus station to continue his ride home from the New Balance national indoor track and field championships in New York City. There, Spencer-Thompson earned All-America honors Sunday with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump.
“I’m not sure when I’m going to get home,” he lamented at the time.
Spencer-Thompson continued to add distance to his ongoing escalation of the unofficial state record in the indoor triple jump at the nationals, leaping 48 feet, 10 1/4 inches on his third of six attempts.
“I knew I got the most out of that one,” said the 6-foot-3, 155-pound Spencer-Thompson. “That was a good jump for me.”
He nearly matched that with his next jump of 48-9 1/2, then added a third leap of more than 48 feet (48-1 1/2) on his last attempt.
Jequan Hogan, a senior from Fountain, Colorado, had the best jump of the day at 49-6 1/2. Another senior, Treyvon Ferguson of Hershey, Pennsylvania, also jumped 49-6 1/2 but Hogan won the tiebreaker with the next longest jump of 49-4 compared to 48-3 1/2 for Ferguson.
Kevin Snyder, a junior from Arden, North Carolina, jumped 48-10 3/4 to edge Spencer-Thompson by one-half inch for third place.
“I wanted to finish top-six to get All-American, so I’m happy with that,” said Spencer-Thompson. “That was my goal.”
Spencer-Thompson’s previous best in the triple jump was 48-9 at the USATF New England championships in Boston on Feb. 18. He tuned up for Sunday by winning the emerging elite division and setting a meet record in the boys long jump at nationals on Friday despite barely practicing that event during the indoor season.
A leap of 23-10 1/2 on his first attempt secured the victory by seven inches over runner-up Jaylynn Cundiff (23-3½) of Brockton, Massachusetts, and left Spencer-Thompson ranked sixth nationally in the long jump for the 2017-2018 indoor season.
“I just wanted to get used to the runway for the triple jump,” said Spencer-Thompson, who hadn’t competed in the long jump since last June.
Spencer-Thompson’s final meet of the indoor track season capped off a another explosive winter of triple jump growth, as he added more that 1 1/2 feet to the 47-3 he leaped last June to capture the Class C state championship in the event.
He kicked off the winter season with a best of 46-6¼ at the Dartmouth Relays in mid-January, followed by a 48-3 1/2 later in the month at the Greater Boston Track Club Invitational. He achieved another PR at the New England championships before setting another personal standard good for fifth in the national triple jump rankings at the New Balance meet.
“I started triple jumping when I was 12 and every year I’d physically grow and then I’d jump farther,” said Spencer-Thompson. “This was the first year that I’m the same height and weight I was last year pretty much so the improvement wasn’t so much depending on my physical strength as it was on perfecting my technique.
“It was even more rewarding when I realized it wasn’t just because of the nature of me growing and jumping farther but it was actually me putting the time and effort into it. Just by looking at the videos you can see from my second to third phase that it’s less a stop and a step and more of an actual jump.”
Spencer-Thompson moved into All-America territory despite intermittent practice time this winter. He also was a starting forward for the Mattanawcook Academy basketball team, which improved from 1-17 last year in Class B to 12-6 and a trip to the Class C North semifinals this year — the Lynx’ first playoff appearance in six years.
“I wasn’t able to get to the UMaine rec center to practice every night for track after basketball, but if we did some sprints in practices or some defensive slide drills that would actually build some strength for me that I could use on the track,” he said.
Spencer-Thompson plans to take a brief respite from athletics until the start of the high school outdoor track season — practices begin March 26. Though he does plan to do some weight training with the goal of eventually adding 10 pounds to his frame.
“I’m not looking to get huge, I’m just trying to put on a little more weight before the season starts,” he said. “Once the season starts you can’t really lift and do meets, too, because then you’re risking injury.”
That additional weight and strength might help Spencer-Thompson reach another milestone — becoming the first Maine high school athlete to reach 50 feet in the triple jump.
“I think it’s very possible actually because I was jumping 49 feet in practice and I’ve jumped 48-10 in a meet so it’s a little more than a foot away,” he said. “I can go farther outdoors when the conditions are right, and if I have the adrenalin from a meet behind me I’d say it’s not impossible.”
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