Dusty Jonas – High Jump, USA
Dusty Jonas, one of the top high jumpers in the world, answered questions for the Kangaroo Track Club athletes and fans.
Dusty is not only a very talented athlete, but most importantly a great person. He is very giving to the sport and the kids (future jumpers).
Kangaroo Track Club and the high jump fans around the world are very exited for the opportunity to get to know you a little bit more. Thank you for being with us.
What do you think to/tell yourself right before you take off to do the jump?
-Before I go to jump I visualize the perfect jump in my head. I start with my approach and picture myself running a great curve and having good speed. Then I picture myself clearing the bar. I don’t really have one thing that I tell myself, though. I guess it depends on what it is that I really need to keep in mind like speed, knee drive, take off, etc.
Hi Dusty- First off I would just like to say that I think you are an amazing jumper and I really look up to you. My question is this– I am a female, senior in high school, and the season starts in one week. I jumped for the first time back this morning, and had the same problem as last year–holding over the bar. I have plenty of speed, my curve and lean is correct, I am driving my knee, and have plenty of ups, but I have a hard time holding over the bar and my timing is a bit off because sometimes I snap over the bar and need to wait just a split second. Do you have any tips/drills to help me with holding and timing? Thanks!
-Thank you for the compliments Anna, I really appreciate them. And the question you asked is a great one but will take a little time to explain, so be sure to take notes!
There are several things that could be keeping you from clearing the bar other than “snapping” or “holding” over the bar. If your curve, lean, and speed are correct, you might try to look at your takeoff angle. Sometimes if you don’t have enough horizontal velocity going into the pit, you are forced to “snap” over the bar or you end up coming down on it. There is some controversy as to what takeoff angle is the best but in my opinion it is around 30 to 40 degrees. To simplify, at the moment of takeoff, your foot should be pointed toward the back corner of the high jump pit.
In mine, and many others opinion, 90% of the high jump happens on the ground. After you leave the ground the path of your jump has already been predetermined. So if the angle isn’t right, or if you lose speed on your last few steps, this could be causing you to come down on the bar. If all this seems a little too much to take in, you could always try just keeping your hips up longer. Doing back overs off a box can help with this as well as backbends and other things that mimic the action. Another really good drill is one that my coach and I have used on several occasions. You just take a normal jump on a full or half approach, and keep your hips up until you drag the bar off with your feet. This gives you a little more time and it also lets you know how much time you have over the bar before you need to clear out. And remember, when you do drills, make sure you make them count! Don’t just go through the motions. Be sure and work on things that can help you during your jump!
I hope this helps!
I had the opportunity to see you jump at the high jump festival here in MN 2 years ago and I am a big fan of yours.
How did you like jumping at the festival? and are you coming back this year?
-Once again thank you for the compliments Mike. First I think the festival is a great event to have for the sport. I think it gives people a chance to just go out there and have fun with the high jump and my experience up there was a blast! I would love to come back up there this year if my competition and meet schedule allow it.
What do you think when you are about to Jump? And what do you think at the moment of jumping?
-The best thing to do before you jump is to think nothing but positive thoughts. I believe that a strong mind can accomplish anything, even in the high jump. So I just visualize the perfect jump and then go before negative thoughts start to filter in. As to what I think right at the take off…it’s really hard to say, mostly I’m just thinking, “Clear this bar.”
Do you have a girlfriend?
How do you deal with the pressure of your 3rd jump? I always freak out because it’s my last and never make it over.
-How did I know that someone was going to ask me this question? Yes I do have a girlfriend and she’s been great this track season. It’s hard sometimes to deal with someone being gone so much and she’s just been a trooper. She might be my biggest fan and that always helps me in the back of my mind.
On how to deal with pressure…much of any event is mental, especially in the high jump. It is one of two events in track and field that you end on a failure. So, mainly I try to make most of my jumps on my first attempt because that comes into play a lot more at an elite level. One miss can be the difference in first or fourth place. But when I do miss bars, even bars that I know I can make, I don’t panic. You just have to assess the situation and hopefully correct what you did wrong. Freaking out is like worrying in the fact that it’s like a rocking chair. Rocking will give you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. So mainly I would just say not to worry about failed attempts, but rather learn from them and correct mistakes. Staying calm in pressure situations is definitely a good quality to work on.
Thanks for the question Megan and I hope this helps!
What was the best advice you received in your jumping career?
-Brooke, a wise man once told me “Its better to look good, than to be good any day.” That wise man was my coach Gary Pepin. Not that it made much of a difference on jumping but it always kept me light spirited. But in all seriousness, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing that I’ve learned in my career as many people have had an influence on it. Mostly coach Pepin but also friends, family members, and teammates. I suppose the thing I’ve heard the most from anyone that is the best advice for a high jumper is “Run fast and jump high.”
If you could re-live one jumping experience (positive) what would it be and why?
-That is another tough question Elizabeth! Gosh, there are a lot of experiences that I’ve had that I’ll never forget but one really stands out. It seems cliché that I would pick the day I set my personal best but it was just the perfect day for me. It was the Big XII meet outdoor my last season at Nebraska so it was my last shot to win a Big XII championship. I ended up jumping 7’8.75” (2.36m) and winning, setting a school record and a Big XII meet record. On that day nothing could have gone wrong, the stars aligned and great things happened. Also it set me up for the Olympic trials where I ended up making the team on a jump off. Both were great experiences but the Big XII championship was my favorite by far.
Is there anything you tell yourself after you have trouble for a long time clearing the next height?
What kind of training did you do in high school? How much training did you do for jumping outside of the season during high school?
-This is a hard question for me to answer but I’ll try my best. Of course this situation is discouraging because that one height will sort of become your own personal monster. I try to not let these bars get into my head because I know that sooner or later I will clear it. One thing that I do tell myself is to not change my jump. Unfortunately, trying harder won’t necessarily help you in the high jump. Usually you just make more mistakes so I would definitely encourage you to keep all of your jumps the same.
In high school I was just like any other athlete. I ran cross-country in the fall even though I wasn’t very good at all. It was mainly to get into shape for basketball. After the basketball season was over I went straight to track with hardly any training. My events would usually get better through the year with more practice. My main events were long jump, triple jump, and high jump. But as far as training outside of the season, I did AAU summer track so I had some time to do a little more specific training but after that season I took a big break so I didn’t wear myself out. Recovery is just as important as the work you put in!
What was your highest height during your high school career?
-My highest height in high school was 7’3” (2.21m)
Anything else that you may what to share with the KTC young jumpers and high jump fans out there?
-First of all I would like to say thank you for all the great questions! I really enjoyed answering them and it definitely gave me something to do during my time here in Doha at the world championships. I guess the best advice that I could give a jumper at any level is just to continue to work hard and to not get discouraged. There are days where your biggest competitor will be yourself and you have to find ways to overcome that. Strive to be better all the time, not just on the track but in life as well. High jump is like life in the fact that the harder you work the higher and farther you will go.
To the fans out there I would like to say thank you on behalf of every jumper out there. Without the fans we have nothing to work for. Fan support is very important in track and field and I hope that it’s a fan base that continues to grow as more people start to understand the sport. After all, it is one of the oldest and most pure sports on the planet.
In closing, I would just like to thank everyone for giving me an opportunity to share some of my knowledge with you. It has been a pleasure and I hope to do it again sometime. I hope to see you all continue to improve and remember, “Run fast, Jump High!”
Marino Drake (Cuba)
Marino Drake answered questions for the Kangaroo Track Club athletes and fans. Marino was a great Cuban high jumper, born June18th of 1967 in Limonar, Matanzas (Cuba) with a personal best of 2.34m (7’7 3/4″). Between 1990 and 1992, he was among the best high jumpers in the world, finishing 5th at the Tokyo World Championships (1991) and 8th at the Barcelona Olympics (1992)
How old were you when you started High Jumping and what got you started in this sport?
Cuba has a particular system that they hand pick you when you are 11 or 12 years old. You participate in an event were you go through 4 to 5 events were you run, jump, and throw (baseball), and the kids get selected based on their results and talent. I happened to show talent in the events of speed and jumps. That’s why I started jumping at 12 years old in school competitions representing my town, district, and all the way to state competitions. It will depend on how do you develop as an athlete and will represent your town, your province at a regional or national level.
I started at 12 years old with high jump, long jump, 60 meter dash, ball throw (baseball) and the 1000 meters race, and by 14 years old I specialized as a high jumper.
When you were just starting out in the sport, what things did you do in the off-season to improve your skills?
We as a high jumpers have to do a pre-season. In the pre-season we have general preparation, and preparation specific of about 5-6 months. In the general preparation we run long distances, lift weights, and even throw medicine balls and the shot. In the specific preparation we do boundings, and plyometrics with boxes and hurdles.
In the pre-season we accumulated volume of work of about 600 jumps a session three times a week, and also lifted weights 3 times a week. In the pre-season we high jump, but more concentrated in the technique, the approach, scissors, and in the last 2 months we took complete jumps with short approaches.
As I was growing in age and in performance, the workout was more specific, but when I was young my coach tried to keep it general so I could be a good athlete before I could be a good high jumper. At a younger age it is more important to concentrate on the technique and to get the correct mechanics and understand the event. It is much easier to work the mechanics at a young age than trying to correct mistakes later on.
Chris and Kale Johnson
What did you do to keep a strong mental focus? How did you overcome nervous thoughts during competition?
I would like to ask about some of your methods of getting control of your mind in order to jump well. And if you know of any other ways that maybe didn’t work for you but other people?
Even if the athlete is a world-class level athlete they will always feel nervousness, being nervous is part of being an athlete. It is part of competing. Feeling nervous before a big meet or competition is normal.
The best thing that you can do is relax. At the same time you have to be realistic and true with yourself, and check your objectives and goals. Going out there and wanting to be better than somebody else or improving your personal best without training, or just because you want to be better, it will be hard.
You have to be better because you put the time, the effort, and the sacrifice. You worked hard and gave everything you had in to your training. Being nervous before and during a competition is part of the life of an athlete.
There was a time when I had a mental block with heights that were close to my personal best. What helped me was that before I jumped I always rehearsed the jump in my mind, and would see in my mind what I wanted my body to execute technically during the jump in a very clear way, where even timing of what I was doing had to be close to reality.
Do not be concerned about the other jumpers or what is going on around you, compete against the heights, against yourself. If you concentrate on what you need to do technically, that will take care of the objective, which is to clear the bar that you have in front of you. Your opponents, the people, they are secondary. Trust your training and believe in yourself.
What idea relating to the event did you consider most important while at the professional level?
The most important aspect for me was my pre-season, this is the time where I prepared my body for the upcoming competition season, and this doesn’t only include the long and hard workouts, but also technique, psychology.
Now if you feel that you are doing your workouts right and putting your mind and body into it, like the weightlifting, the multi jumps, hurdles, technique, speed; if you feel like you are better every day that passes because you have come to work everyday and you don’t miss practices; you honor the commitment to your coach, if you trust you coach, if there is chemistry and an open line of communication between your coach and you, when you feel like your coach is your friend, your father, it is the one that will be there for you for your victories and when things do not work for you in the way you want them to, but also if your coach is the one that will push you in the daily workouts so you can succeed; then you will have a successful season. That is how I felt when I was going to have a successful season. When at the end of my workout I did everything that my coach told me to and my coach also told me “wow………… we trained very well today.” I meant a lot to me. This means that at the end of my pre-season and because I trained well, I felt that like there is nothing that I can’t do.
I would like to add something. This is a beautiful event and it will bring you great satisfactions and memories. Enjoy every moment of your pre-season, your competition season, and have fun!
Joe Lopez, Hill-Murray High School
What type of drills can you do to improve your vertical?
In order to be a good high jumper, you have to be a good athlete. This means that you have to be coordinated, agile, fast, strong, with endurance, etc. I used to do hurdle jumps and box jumps. I used to do a high volume of jumps of about 600 jumps per session, over hurdles, on boxes, one leg two legs etc. Three times a week and also we lifted weights were we worked calf raises, half squats, half squats with jumps, lunges, boxes, etc. Technique was emphasized in the weight room also.
Peter McKeown, Hill-Murray High School
Do you have any kind of foods that you usually eat that improve jumps?
The high jumpers are thin by nature, you have to keep a healthy and balanced diet with natural products. But if you train in the way that you need to train in order be successful, you are going to be fine. Eating a natural and balanced diet and keeping up with your training sessions, your dedication, your strong will to push forward, will make you jump and not just the high jump, but in life.
How did you get yourself to arch your back? Did it just come naturally, or are there drills you can do?
Feeling uneasy in the beginning when you are trying to arch on top of the bar it is totally normal,
A good exercise is high jumping with the leg, but concentrate on landing on your shoulders and not flat on your back or your butt. By landing on your shoulders, keep the momentum going and roll over, kind of like a flip. Remember that working on top of the bar is important, but never start working on top of the bar until you finish climbing.
Marino, what do you think about the use of a box (for take off) in a high jump technique practice?
It is a good workout if the objective is the technique after the take off, because it allows us to have more time in order to learn what we need to do after we leave the ground. Otherwise we will not be able to, because a normal jump (without a box) happens too fast.
What can you do to help improve performances in jumping when you know your body is capable of clearing the new height, but never actually having done so?
This is something that happens to many jumpers. For example, in my case I was the training partner of Javier Sotomayor, and for many years when we were doing vertical test, speed test, agility test, I tested better than him and I always asked myself, “Ok, I am a world class athlete, but why can I not jump as high as Sotomayor?” And that kind of created a mental block on me. I was always working harder in order to keep myself competitive at a high level, and I got my best results when I went way from the high jump for a while so I could get my head out of the pressure of the event. For sometime and when I decided to high jump again, things where clicking for me. I guess it relaxed me and the pressure of the event went away.
I would also recommend that you to be realistic with your goals, do not go for 5cm to 10cm (2 to 4 inches). If it happens, great. Even if you improve 1cm or 2cm (0.4inches or 0.8inches) be happy, stay positive and keep training, because you are moving forward.
You cannot think on the heights as something that is going to decide your life, but as this great sport that makes you feel good every time that you are out there jumping. Enjoy the competition and just jump. Never think on the height, just jump. If there is anything that you should be thinking of, it is to explode in the take-off and on the technique. Great jumps come to you (if you have trained for it, of course) you do not seek them. Because if you seek them, you will pressure yourself and it will be hard for you to relax at the meets.
Solange Witteveen – High Jump, Argentina
Solange Witteveen answered questions for the Kangaroo Track Club athletes and fans. Solange is 2x Olympian from Argentina, former South American champion, and the current South American record holder, with a personal best of 1.96mts (6’5″)
1. How did you become interested in the sport of high jump?
I started doing track at 8 years old doing many events. When I was 10 years old I did the high jump for the first time, and I won my first competition with a 1.10mts (3 feet – 6 inches) jump. At that moment I fell in love with the event and I never stopped jumping since then.
2. How long have you been jumping for?
My first high jump competition, I was 10 years old and that was also my first time high jumping ever.
3. How did you get past the mental frustration not being able to jump the next height after a certain period of time?
When I was 13 years old I used to jump 1.45mts (4-7 1/2) very easily but then the bar went to 1.50mts (4-9 1/4). I used to knock the bar down pretty bad, and for a while I couldn’t jump 1.50mts until one day my coach (school teacher) without letting me know that he put the bar in 1.50mts told me that it was 1.45mts. So I took a jump with confidence (thinking and convinced that it was 1.45mts) and I cleared it with out touching it.
After that jump my coach told me that it was 1.50mts instead than 1.45mts. After that day I didn’t have any trouble jumping 1.50mts.
I don’t use that technique to overcome mental blocks any more. The key is to enjoy the jump and do not think on heights or personal bests etc. Every time that I have tried to jump looking for height I was not successful. Instead, when I am not even thinking about the height and I concentrate in my mechanics and knowing that if I do what I need to do mechanics wise “I will clear that height, it is a fact.” Usually when I have that frame of mind I manage to jump well. A jumper has to understand that you cannot PR every day and that it takes time to improve or to come back to a good height (if you haven’t been jumping for a wile or are coming back from an injury). Being a good jumper is not to clear a great height once, you need to be patient and keep pushing yourself forward, and good things will come to you.
4. Do you regularly “take time” off from the sport (breaks)?
Once a year I take a vacation of 3 weeks right after the outdoor season. After the indoor season I take a small break of a week, before I have to go back to full training.
1. What do you think the key to your success is?
That is a tough question, but I think that the key of success is not to go try to seek success. I never seek success. I only wanted to jump high and like that I jump 6-5 that in my beginnings a height like that didn’t even cross my mind. I guess it is about passion. Success will come from that.
1. What do you do the night before the competition?
The night before a competition I try to take it easy. Go to sleep at an hour that allows me to get my 8 hours of rest as much as I can. The day before a competition I also try not to walk or stay standing too much and save my energy.
2. Do you do anything special before each jump?
Before I take a jump I try to get out of my head the negative thoughts and any thought that has nothing to do with the jump. Like what people or the other competitors may be thinking…………? , “If I jump this height I will get a scholarship…..” or “My rival dropped the bar in his or her last attempt……..”
I simply try to focus on the jump that I have in front of me and try to focus in one or two details (mechanically) that I have to do, like leaning at the moment of take off, or lifting that free leg, I guess I just try to feel the great jump that I will make. I pump myself up repeating to myself a positive word.
3. What do you do besides high jump, do you have any hobbies?
Besides high jump I also windsurf as a hobby, and I am studying a course for being a French interpreter.
1. How do you eat before a competition?
Before a competition I try to eat something light, something that I know that it is not going to upset my stomach. Deep fried food and a ton of salsa it is a big no no. Whatever I eat, it has to be light and not much, because it makes me feel heavy for next day and a full stomach will hurt my performance.
2. What kind of workout do you do in the pre-season?
In pre –season my workouts are very long. From Monday through Saturday I train twice a day (double session) with the exception of Thursday that I only train once a day. Sunday is a rest day.
As a part of my workout I combine hills, vertical and horizontal jumps, aerobic and anaerobic workouts weights, etc. Basically in pre season I emphasize volume. The workout sessions are long and very intense.
3. How is your training before a competition?
Before a competition I decrease the volume of the workouts dramatically. The week of the big meet I train once a day (only one session a day), one lifting day with low reps at 80% of my max (approximately). I emphasize that week also technique, speed and plyometrics. The workouts are not long at all, but fast and explosive and 100% quality.
Two days before the competition I rest, and the day before I lift. But just to tone the muscles, almost nothing.
1. What was your motivation for jumping in your beginnings and how much has it changed now?
In my beginnings my motivation was to jump higher every time – like a challenge that I took up against the height. Like a video game that you play and that until you don’t get to the final screen and beat the game you will not rest……..It was just like that. In the beginnings jumping was a pleasure, and in the meets I always had a good time just like “playing high jump.”
Until one day I just jumped very high (for my age) and I got a ton of attention from the crowd and the other competitors. At the end of the competition everyone congratulated me. It was magical, a beautiful moment. But along with the admiration from the people came a big responsibility. Right after I had a PR people wanted to see another one, they wanted more, they wanted higher. And like that I started feeling pressure. The sponsors were there to help train but at the same time they wanted me to jump higher and well every time. So without realizing it I was jumping to satisfy the demands of other ones and I was forgetting about me. I was stuck in heights, I was not jumping well, not improving and completely out of focus, I didn’t have peace. I started pressuring myself and I stopped enjoying the jump. But you learn from those tough lessons and you come to the realization that if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it doesn’t make sense to keep doing it, period. And at that critical moment you have to make a decision. Should you retire? Or should you keep going? And when I decided to keep going then I chose to forget about everything and just jump high and enjoy it, jump without limits, jump as high as your imagination allows you. And at the same time, and being honest with myself I know that that is the only way that I could reach the next Olympics and be successful. Just loving, and enjoying high jump.
2. What is your max in squat, snatch, clean, and 1/4 squat?
My max in full squat is 120 kg (265 LB)
Snatch 60kg (133 LB)
Clean 80kg (177 LB)
I do sets of ¼ squat with 180kg (397 LB) , sorry no max test on this one.
3. Besides High Jump, what other events have you done? and what are your PR’s?
In some other events I have
TJ 12,25mts (40-2)
LJ 6,27mts (20-6)
Charles Austin – High Jump, USA.
Charles Austin answered questions for the Kangaroo Track Club athletes and fans. Charles was an Olympic gold medalist (1996), the American and Olympic high jump record holder, two-time World Champion, and a nine-time national track and field high jump champion. He is the founder and owner of So High Sports and Fitness in TX. Personal Best: 2.40mts (7’10 1/4″)
Kale (Apple Valley): What do you eat before a competition or leading up to it?
Before the competition, you need to keep everything normal. I never had a specific diet or anything, or a plan that I followed.
I’ve never been a big eater, never, it didn’t take me a long time to get me a lot of food for me to be full.
The day before and the day of the competition, I even cut back. But I had to try to sustain. The day of the competition I don’t eat very much at all because I’m preparing to jump.
Jack : What do you think before jumping?
Before I jump I have to visualize. I go over the jump in my head, I try to see myself performing that jump and after that tell myself to basically relax and don’t force anything, to let things happen for me. Because once you try to force the issue, that’s when things go wrong.
You know I just have to relax and let my body do what it’s been trained to do. In the beginning, before I start my approach I try to visualize in my head how I would like it to be and take off after that.
Karissa (Stillwater): How do you deal with a mental block of a height?
I’ve dealt with that before when I was jumping. That goes along with training hard and gaining that confidence in your ability.
When I was younger thinking 7 feet was a big block for me. I knew that I could get over, but for some reason when I would hear the number seven I would freak out. So what I did was start watching video, going up to the height and just looking at it.
I started to believe in myself more. Being more aware of my jumps at seven feet because a lot of times I was over it but I would just clip it off for whatever reason. And instead of saying “Okay, I’m close to making it” it became a big mental barrier like I was scared of it. I just thought of believing in myself and then really working on my techniques. I got my technique down and that’s when it happened for me. So focusing on my technique and then more than anything gaining more confidence, that’s what helped me get over that mental block.
Coach Munoz: So that means being very positive, right?
Being very positive [with myself], yes. You have to stay positive.
Jacque (Eagan): How do you deal coming back from injuries?
After suffering my major knee injury in the early 1990s and following to have surgery in 1993, it was tough. It was tough to deal with mentally, you know, because I didn’t want to hurt myself again. We protect ourselves from pain. It’s a normal thing to try to prevent that from happening again. What I told myself is “hey if I wanted to continue to compete at a high level, I’m going to have to get over this and just get out there and prove myself and do it to the best of my ability”. And if it hurts, great, oh well, you know I have to keep working and find a way to make it better. And if is doesn’t hurt, great, I just kept going. You just get back out there and put yourself back into it again. Go back again, and see where you’re at, and you have to work from there. Once you stop protecting yourself there’s a good chance that it’s not going to hurt anymore. You just have to overcome that fear and the only way you can do that is to just get out there and give it 100%.
Gus (Eagan): How did you started?
I started my training in high school. The first time I jumped was in 7th or 8th grade, and I didn’t jump again until high school, and it basically started with my wanted to go and hang out with my friends who were running track, and since it was my last year of high school I just wanted to get out there and see what I could do.
How strong are you in the weight room?
In hang clean the most I’ve ever tried was 285 pounds and the most I’ve ever squatted was 425 pounds but that was easy.
I never maxed out. I never cared to max out. I didn’t feel the need to put all that weight on my body.
Actually I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong, when they’re trying to lift all that heavy weight and there’s not a need for it.
I don’t know what my max is in the squat, I don’t know what my max is in the hang cling, I don’t know what my max is in the arm curls.
I’ve never maxed out in the weight room. Never. I’ve never cared to. You know, everything is a balance, you have to find a nice balance.
Because if you get too strong, it’s big block muscles that you know you don’t need as a jumper. You need to find a happy medium.
I didn’t see any benefit of maxing out, other than to say “Oh, I squatted a hundred pounds.”
How hard did you have to train to get to where you are?
I trained really hard. I would train 5.4 hours a day of hard training. At the track for 2 ½ – 3 hours and then I’d go to the weight room for approximately an hour. To compete at this level you’re going to have to work really really hard, it’s not easy. If it was easy everybody would do it. You have to work hard both physically and mentally. Just like you have to train your body you have to train your mind.
Is there anything that you would like to tell the kids?
First of all, enjoy doing it. You can’t get to where it becomes a chore. Like with me, I just enjoy training, I enjoy high jumping, so it shows in my jumping. I just tried to learn as much about the event as I could. Learn how to train properly, how to run properly, how to jump properly. You have to become a student of the event. And more than anything just have fun with it.