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ANOTHER MILESTONE: Union Senior Hayden Smith Breaks State Indoor Championship Meet Record with 6-11 Effort in High Jump, Claims State Title

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Hayden Smith had an extra spring in his step.

More explosion. Brimming with confidence.

“Oh, I knew it was going to be a good day,” said the Union/A-C Valley high jumper.

It certainly was.

Smith added another chapter to his rapidly rising national profile by clearing 6 feet, 11 inches to set a PIAA Track and Field Indoor Championship meet record at Penn State on Sunday in winning the state title.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

This although the Union senior is still in the middle of a basketball season with the Golden Knights as a starting forward and although he had just three meets prior to the state meet.

His 6-11 also put him second nationally in the indoor high jump.

Smith, who has already won two outdoor PIAA titles in the high jump, is still trying to wrap his mind around it all.

“I don’t even know what to think,” Smith said. “It’s awesome.”

It didn’t take long for Smith to recognize it was going to be a special afternoon.

During warmups, she soared over the bungee in place of the bar on several attempts, then shut it down.

He was good. More than good.

“I felt great, physically and mentally,” Smith said. “I was just sitting there thinking about it and I asked (jumping coach Dave Sherman), ‘Hey, what’s the meet record? He was like 6-10½, I think, maybe 6-10¾. We looked it up, and I went for it.”

Smith got 6-11 without a miss. He attempted to clear 7 feet, but clipped the bar with his calf on his first attempt and missed on his next two.

Still, 6-11 was his career best — indoor or outdoor.

“I was like, ‘I really got that?’” Smith said. “I was so hyped and everyone was hyped for me.”

There is certainly hype around Smith now.

He was pulled aside by several Division I college coaches in attendance. He said he will decide soon.

“Generally speaking, most indoor marks usually aren’t as goo because you’re not practicing as regularly, with the exception of some bigger school that have access to some facilities,” Sherman said. “I mean, he’s in the middle of a basketball season. They have a playoff game (on Thursday). He’s in the middle of doing that, so it was kind of crazy. I wouldn’t say completely unexpected, but pretty amazing.”

Smith’s rapid rise in the event has also been impressive.

He emerged as one of the best jumpers in the state as a sophomore and proved that in Shippensburg with his first outdoor title.

Last year, he won again. He also has two AAU Junior Olympic high jump crowns to his name.

But there’s more Smith wants to accomplish.

And there may be no stopping him.

“He’s so kinesthetically aware,” Sherman said. “He has such good body control that it comes back. He doesn’t really lose that and I think the meets out in Youngstown he’s been participating in have allowed him to get back into the rhythm a little bit.”

Smith has also adjusted his step in his approach.

It has given him even more of an edge in getting over the bar.

Last year, Sherman wanted to try that alternative approach with Smith earlier in the season, but the jumper was nursing a lingering ankle injury from basketball.

This year, it’s going to be a full go.

They already tinkered with it during the state meet on Sunday.

“We were hammering them down (Sunday),” Smith said. “All I have to do now is get those reps and practice going in the outdoor season.”

Smith is already looking forward to what could be a very special senior outdoor campaign.

He’s had a jump of 7-foot in his sights for years and has come close several times. That seems like a matter of not if, but when for Smith.

He also wants to take a crack at the Class 2A state outdoor meet record, which is 7-1 set by Matt Benson of Sheffield in 1992.

The overall state record may also be within his reach. That mark is 7-2½ set by Tyrone Smith of Plymouth Whitemarsh in 1985.

“I would really like to get the state meet record,” Smith said. “That would be pretty cool. I can’t wait for outdoor season. I just can’t wait.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.