With only the sound of a mower in the background, Chris Demler approached the high jump bar during an early morning practice session Thursday at Chick Brown Track.
His “signature” shoe drag ignited his ascent. He soared over the bar with ease, clearing 5-8.
“Remember when that was a struggle,” Clinton-Massie boys track and field coach Brian Mudd said.
Demler replied with a smile on his face, “Yea.”
The Clinton-Massie junior is scheduled to compete 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Div. II Ohio State Track & Field Championship high jump event at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the Ohio State University campus.
Demler finished fourth last week in the Region 8 Track & Field Championship at Welcome Stadium. He cleared 6-2, his competition personal best.
For Demler, the trip to the state meet is his first. In fact, Demler never wore a track and field uniform prior to this season.
“I really didn’t know what it (track and field) was about,” he said. “I always was too involved in other sports.”
If he weren’t still competing as a high jumper, Demler figures he’d be playing “AAU basketball, or in a spring league.”
Demler is the kicker on a CMHS football team and a forward on the Falcons’ basketball team. Once the winter season at school was complete, he usually would turn his attention to summer basketball.
Mudd had different ideas this spring.
“I knew he had some rise from playing basketball,” said Mudd, a former basketball coach at CMHS. “Between me and Brandon (Davis), we were able to convince him (Demler) to try (track).”
At first Mudd’s expectations were low. He didn’t have a strong high jumper, so he was looking for someone who could clear 5-6 “and score some points here and there, something we didn’t have.”
As the start of the practice season unfolded, Demler didn’t even look at a bar.
“We didn’t have him attempt a high jump for two weeks in practice,” Mudd said. “We just did some jumping drills, some form drills.”
When the bar became part of practice, Mudd’s notion about what he had in Demler changed.
“The first time I saw him take off, I said, ‘We might have something here’,” Mudd recalls. “But again, I’m thinking 5-8, 5-10 maybe (by the end of the season).”
In his first actual meet, Demler cleared 5-8.
“Your expectations change once you see him do it,” said Mudd. “You don’t know what you’re going to get until they’re out there doing something.
“Obviously, our goals changed a little bit after that first meet. Then the second and third meet he’s at like 6-0 and that’s when everybody, at least when I started thinking, long-term maybe we might have something down the road.”
While his form is one obvious area of improvement over the months of the season, Demler said his mentality also has soared.
“My mentality was I didn’t think I could do anything,” he said. “My form was terrible. I couldn’t get 5-0 at the beginning of the year. Now, I have a lot more confidence and my form has improved a lot.”
Now as he approaches his first state meet, Demler must battle nerves. He was a bit uneasy at last week’s district meet, competing for the first time in the vast arena that is Welcome Stadium.
“I was very nervous, very nervous,” he admitted after the meet. “I have never really been nervous for anything until this. It was such a big scale. I’d never really been to something like this, obviously, never running track or high jumping before in my life.
“Now, I love the fact that I can do it. At the beginning of the year, it gave me something to work toward. I’ve always wanted to succeed at whatever I do.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports