Junior Brianna Hayes is the quiet, soft-spoken girl often putting in extra time at practice on her form and technique for the high jump. With her hair pulled back, wearing a hooded sweatshirt the Village News watched as she cleared bar after bar in practice on a cold afternoon at Matoaca High school last Friday.
“My middle school coach got me into the high jump,” explained Hayes. “It’s just an event that I really started to like doing.”
Enjoying doing something and being good at it are two different things for some people. This isn’t the case for Hayes, who is now a two-time indoor state champion in the high jump as a junior and is headed to Nationals this weekend in New York from March 7- March 10.
“She’s got a great chance to succeed at the Nationals,” said Matoaca track head coach Charles Bailey, a 2003 Matoaca graduate. “The sky is the limit for her.”
Hayes’ jump of 5-10 on January 11 at the Suffolk Stars Invitational was good enough to rank not only the best in Virginia according to Mile Stat, a track and field ranking website, but another ranking website, Mile Split currently ranks Hayes at No. 1 in the nation in the event. Hayes stands at 5 foot 8 inches, but can clear a bar that stands two inches over her head.
Overall, her maximum jump has ballooned since the eighth grade.
In middle school, Hayes’ best jump was 4-10. As a freshman, Bailey learned this, and started to give Hayes more drills and reps in the event.
“I thought 4-10 was pretty good,” said a smiling Bailey.
As a freshman, Hayes jumped 5-7, finishing second place in the state. A 5-8 jump as a sophomore secured her the state championship, and another 5-8 jump won her second straight state championship this indoor season on February 22.
“Brianna is always willing to work harder and harder,” said Bailey. “She’s put down every goal she’s set for herself.”
As many heads as Hayes has turned with her jumping ability, one of the most exciting aspects for the junior has been the stack of over 40 letters that Bailey and his staff have received on her for probable college offers. Scholarship offers should start to roll in for the rising senior over the summer.
“I’m not sure where I want to go to school,” said Hayes. “I’ve gotten a lot of mail and I want to go through it all.”
The high jump is heavily dependent on form and consistency, and what drives improvement are the perfection of the form and the consistency to do it each and every time. Competitions are won and lost by inches.
“I’ve been working on my approach and to not lean into the bar,” said Hayes. “I want to be more consistent and keep my speed up when I’m approaching the bar.”
With another year left in high school, Hayes is capable of accomplishing much more. The high jumper’s next goal is 6-0; just three inches shy from the national record. Bailey also stated that Hayes’ strength and condition had vastly improved and continues to get better. In addition to high jump, Hayes also participates in the long jump.
“Her technique is getting better, her approach is getting better,” explained Bailey, who used to high jump. “She’s a natural,” he continued. “The more she jumps the more she understands it and the better she’s going to get.”
When not practicing her jumping form, Hayes is excelling in the classroom, posting a 3.5 grade point average, something else colleges will enjoy seeing while recruiting her. The junior aspires to be a veterinarian.
“My parents have been a big influence on my success,” said Hayes. “They push me everyday to be the best I can be.”
Follow us @VNewsSports on twitter for Hayes’ results from Nationals. We’ll have that and all of your other spring sport updates.