How high can he go?

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

If you're of average height -- say about 5-10 for a man or 5-4 for a woman -- stop what you're doing, stand up and look a foot or two above your head.

Now, imagine taking 10 steps back ... crouching in a stance ... running towards the high jump bar ... and catapulting yourself upward and over a height more than a foot above your head.

It's hard to imagine, isn't it?

Well, it happened. The occasion was the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference meet. Against a field of six Class A and two Class B schools, 18-year-old senior Aaron Plas of McCook High School sprung into Nebraska track and field history by clearing the previously unreached high school height of 7 feet, 2 inches.

Pandemonium erupted. The track meet stopped and fans, teammates and fellow competitors rushed to congratulate the athlete who had set a new, all-time Nebraska High School record for high jumpers. In the process, Aaron also established new conference, school and Class B records.

In one magical moment, Aaron not only made the all-time best high school jump in Nebraska, but he thrust himself into the national limelight as well.

He now ranks third nationally, behind only Teak Wilburn of Chico, Cal., whose national best jump is 7 feet, 4.25 inches, and Andra Manson of Brenham, Tex, who ranks second at 7 feet, 3.25 inches. According to dyestat.com, a national prep track and field ranking service, Aaron's third place national height of 7-2 is two inches above four athletes who are tied for fourth at 7 foot even.

Aaron's accomplishment is a credit to himself, his blood lines, his coaches, his teammates and the track and field program at McCook High School.

His mom, Pat Phinney, was a high jumper and long jumper in her high school years at Firelands High School in Henrietta, Ohio. Following in her footsteps, Aaron took up the high jump in the eighth grade, clearing 5-4 in his first year of competition.

Since then, his progress has been steadily upward. He topped 6-0 as a freshman, 6-4 as a sophomore and 6-10 in his junior year. This, his senior season, started off slowly because of a partially torn tendon in his left foot. Because that is Aaron's plant foot, the pain was excessive and coaches limited him to only one or two jumps per meet. That changed Saturday. Seeing that he was feeling much better, Coaches John Gumb and Rick Haney decided it was time to give Aaron the green light.

And, oh, how he did respond, bringing state and national notice to himself, his school, his family, his team and his community.

Coach Haney, Aaron's event coach, says part of the credit for Aaron's record jump goes to the standard of excellence set by his high jump predecessors. Going all the way back to Larry Flock, who held the previous MHS record at 7-0 in 1978, Aaron as been inspired by such outstanding high jumpers as Nate Bennett, Joe Wellman and Sheldon Martin.

Also, Aaron is blessed with excellent natural spring and outstanding knee drive and arm drive, Coach Haney said.

Can he go even higher? Definitely, says Haney. "He is blessed with great natural ability and he works hard. I'm looking forward to his remaining time at MHS and his college career at Nebraska."

How high can he go? Look up again. Even higher. Aaron Plas shows promise of continuing to spiral into the national spotlight.

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