Walugas Lexi Ross out-jumps all in the state, even high schoolers
Had Lexi Ross jumped her personal best in the high jump at this year's high school state track meet in Eugene, she would have breezed to a state championship.
Only one thing stood in her way. Ross isn't in high school yet. She's an eighth-grader at Waluga Junior High School and has only been jumping for about a year.
It is a fairly remarkable feat for someone who has only been on a track team for a year. Ross has always been athletic, competing in basketball, soccer and volleyball over the years. She is also the younger sister of Katie Ross, a three-time district tennis champion.
'Lexi competes in pretty much every sport except tennis, actually. I think she's quit more sports than I've ever played,' said Lexi's father Burl.
But it wasn't until a gym class in the spring of her seventh grade year at Waluga that Ross added track to her resumè.
On that day, students were practicing the event in P.E. and Ross was easily clearing the heights that were set up and then took her place in line again, waiting for another attempt.
After easily clearing another height, one of the coaches approached her and said, 'Did you know you just broke the school record?'
'I had no idea. The coaches told me I had to go out for track the next year,' Lexi said.
But it was too late to sign up for the school's track team. Ross was determined to compete in track the following year and stayed in shape with other sports.
When this spring rolled around, Ross continued where she left off, clearing the respectable height of 4-10 when practices began.
During school practices, her coaches wouldn't allow her to even attempt jumps much higher than 5-0 and the conditions in the gym were much different than ones she experienced in meets.
'In practice you're in the gym and you're not wearing spikes. You just jump and hope you don't land in the cement wall,' Lexi said.
Finally, when the district meet came along, Ross was able to let loose. Earlier in the season, she had made a deal with her father. Since the age of four she had wanted a cat and, finally, her father told her that if she jumped 5-6 he would buy her one.
'I gave her this goal which I thought was completely ridiculous and unattainable and she beat it in two months,' her dad said.
At districts, Ross easily cleared her early heights and then had a miss at 5-4. But that was hardly a setback as she cleared that height on her next attempt, bumping her up to 5-6 a height that, if cleared, would be higher than nearly every high school jumper in Oregon.
Ross cleared the bar with relative ease and she will be receiving her kitten in just a few weeks.
At the district meet, Ross also won the shot put and finished third in the 200 meters.
When the high school state meet concluded in Eugene this year, the winning high jump in cold and rainy conditions was 5-4.
'It was funny. I had coaches coming up to me at school and saying that I would have won state this year,' Lexi said.
Just recently, Ross competed at the State Junior Olympics at Willamette University in Salem and won that event as well with a jump of 5-3. That qualified her for the regional event later in the month and a similar jump at that meet will likely earn her a spot at nationals in Baltimore, in July.
Ross is also participating in a training camp at the University of Oregon this summer where she will train in all of the heptathlon events.
'I'll probably take up something like javelin in high school and probably the triple jump,' Lexi said.
For now, Ross continues to train and hopes to make the varsity volleyball team at Lakeridge as a freshman in the fall. Then she will turn her attention to track once again and has set another high goal for herself.
By the end of high school she hopes to jump 6-0 because her father made another deal with her. If she clears that height, her dad will buy her a car.