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Dickinson High’s Jordheim, Kainz take different paths to state qualifying

Part of Lexi Jordheim's success in the high jump stems from advice her brother gave her long ago. Levi Jordheim is now a linebacker for the North Dakota State football team, but in 2012, he took third place in the high jump at the Class A state t...

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Dickinson High sophomore Lexi Jordheim competes in the high jump Friday at the West Region track and field championships at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

Part of Lexi Jordheim’s success in the high jump stems from advice her brother gave her long ago.

Levi Jordheim is now a linebacker for the North Dakota State football team, but in 2012, he took third place in the high jump at the Class A state track and field meet for Dickinson High, where Lexi is now a sophomore.

The high jump is one of the more technique-driven events in track and field, but the advice seems almost too simple.

“He’s the kind of guy where if I’m nervous or thinking about too many things at once - my approach or what I’m doing in the air - he says, ‘Just go out and jump,’” Lexi said. “That’s what you need to do if you really think about it. It gets you in the right mindset and your muscle memory takes over.”

Lexi will represent the Midgets at this weekend’s state meet in Bismarck in the high jump and pole vault after she placed third in both events at the West Region championships last week at the Biesiot Activities Center. She won’t be the only one heeding Levi’s counseling, though.

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Dickinson senior Wyatt Kainz also credits much of his success to that same piece of guidance.

As a freshman, Kainz qualified for state by placing in the top six at the West Region meet. At state, Kainz confided in Levi that he was nervous for his jump attempts.

“I was telling him, ‘Levi, I don’t know what to do. I’m freaking out,’” Kainz recalled. “He said, ‘Wyatt, it’s really not that hard. Just run and jump.’”

As a sophomore, Kainz cleared 6 feet, 4 inches to win the state title, and he placed sixth last season.

This season, though both have qualified for state, Kainz and Lexi’s season were dramatically different.

Lexi has been on Dickinson’s varsity track and field team since the seventh grade, but she had to wait until this season to finally qualify. She’s competed in the high jump since she started, but she only picked up pole vaulting last season.

“It’s been a want and a desire for me to qualify since seventh grade,” she said. “It feels great to know I’ve finally gotten there.”

Over the course of the season, Lexi has cleared the qualifying height of 5-1 in the high jump several times, and her personal record in the pole vault is 9-9, 6 inches higher than the state requirement.

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“She truly, truly wants to get better, and she works at it,” said Scott Hoffmann, Dickinson’s jumps coach. “You don’t accidently get better at something. She works at it.”

For competing in two of the more detail-specific events, Lexi has learned how important every movement is.

“In vault, right at the end is when you have to turn and throw the pole back,” she said. “You don’t have a whole lot of time in the air. I know what I need to do, but it’s hard to execute sometimes in the air. … And for high jump, your run up has to be spot on every time or you're going to hit the bar every time.”

Lexi said she is thankful for the support and direction she gets from teammates; namely, fellow state-qualifying vaulters Meghan Ackerman, Mike Herauf and Logan Ackerman.

In preparation for the first state meet of her career, Lexi said she’s anticipating a high-intensity atmosphere.

“I think the biggest change is going to be looking up at the stands from the field instead of looking at the field from the stands,” she said. “During the pressure times, I’m just going to say, ‘run and jump.’”

Kainz, on the other hand, has had his preparation for his last state meet slowed due to a left hamstring injury that forced him out of the first few weeks of the season.

He qualified for state by clearing 6-2 on May 5 at the Carlson Booster at the BAC, his first time competing all year. His injury flared up again at the beginning of last week during a long jump attempt. Since then, he’s been focused on rest and rehab.

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“I’ve had acupuncture on it a couple times a week and that worked pretty good,” he said. “Just from then, I was just at home using a heating pad and stretching whenever I can. … (Acupuncture) wasn’t terrible. It’s kind of relaxing. You don’t really feel the needles, you just kind of nap for 20 minutes. As soon as you take them out, the muscle feels so much looser.”

Kainz admits the injury could be physically limiting, but he won’t be mentally afraid to give it his all.

“Physically, it might cause a little bit of a hindrance,” he said, “but I know I’m capable of jumping 6-4 or higher.”

Hoffmann was quick to agree.

“He hasn't jumped much this year so his legs are fresh,” Hoffmann said. “He’s a very hard-working kid, a real student of high jumping. … He just understands the technique. He knows what it takes to be good, and he does it.”

Kainz said Levi helped a great deal when learning the intricacies of the high jump.

“I just watched how he did it. He was a perfectionist, and I’m kind of the same way,” Kainz said. “He always had perfect form, and I just tried to copy him as best I could.

“The approach is one of the most important things. If you jump too close, you hit the bar on the way up, and if you jump too far away, you’ll hit it on the way down.”

Hoffmann said Levi’s short-but-sweet approach to high jumping is an adequate way of coaching while calming nerves.

“We work on technique in practice. At meets, we compete,” Hoffmann said. “Some kids, they worry about every little thing. At meets you can’t be that way. You just have to be aggressive and attack the bar.”

Kainz - who has signed with South Dakota Mines in Rapid City, S.D., and plans to compete in the high, long and triple jumps for the Hardrockers - hopes to put the injury behind him and find one more weekend of quality jumps.

“My goal is to go out and have fun. With fighting injuries all year, it doesn't matter how I place now,” he said. “I just want to have fun with my teammates for the last hurrah. Trophies are nice, but it’s always nice to go out and jump.”

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