For jumpers, competition is as much about the constant fight to stay in a routine as it is about flying far into the pit. There’s no defense, no one trying to cut you off or steal a race at the line. It’s about habit, consistency, and the struggle to stay regimented when everything around you is begging you to bend.
For Westhampton’s Sarena Choi, it all starts with a good night’s sleep. The senior doesn’t mince words about what that means, either. She likes to get a solid nine hours on the night before a big jump. Now, whether or not that actually happens is another story.
“Sometimes I don’t get to go to sleep until late,” said Choi, who also is an outside hitter for the Long Island Blaze, a club volleyball team.
But goals are good and Choi is full of them. By the end of the indoor season, she would like to hit 40 feet in the triple jump and 20 feet in the long jump.
“I can do it, I know I can,” she said. “I just have to have that right day.”
She’s had a lot of good days so far. Choi won both the triple jump (38 feet, 3 1⁄2 inches) and the long jump (18- 9 1⁄2) at the Molloy Stanner Games on Jan. 14 at The Armory in Manhattan.
“I stayed warm for all my jumps,” Choi said of her long jump win. “I kept warming up in between. I also kept my speed up on the runway. That really helped.”
A strong second phase led to her triple jump victory.
“My second phase was a little bit better than it has been,” she said. “That’s the phase where you are back on the foot that you started jumping with. It’s really just a lot of strain on that one leg. It’s a lot of work to get the strength in to make it farther than you have before.”
Choi, who will jump at Kent State next year, has made it farther than any other Long Islander has this year. Her 18-9 1⁄2 mark last weekend was the top long jump on Long Island as of Friday, according to milesplit.com, and her 38-8 1⁄2 triple jump, notched at the Ocean Breeze Holiday Festival in December, was also unmatched on L.I. as last weekend began.
Both distances were ranked second in the state, solidifying Choi’s status as a major contender for a state championship in March. Her Suffolk postseason domination has already begun. She won the Suffolk League IV triple jump (38-5), long jump (17-9 1⁄4) and 55 meters (7.43 seconds) Saturday at Suffolk County CC-Brentwood.
But as Choi’s state rankings indicate, Suffolk might be only a stepping-stone to a phenomenal postseason. Her Molloy Stanner Games jumping victories gave her tremendous confidence that she can compete with, and beat, athletes from all over the state.
“It’s the whole motivational aspect of it,” she said. “I like not being the best one there, so I can try and push myself to try and be the best one there.”
But she doesn’t have to be the best quite yet. For Choi, all that state title talk is only a tad premature. As far as she’s concerned, it will all will fall into place when the time comes.
“I want to improve myself first, and all that will come out in the wash,” she said.