Kenneth Wei was in mid-air when it hit him — he hadn’t hit the ground yet.
The Mount Sinai senior wasn’t impressed with his preliminary offerings in the long jump at last weekend’s Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory in Manhattan. But once Wei found himself in the finals, everything changed — including his hang time.
Shortly before the finals began, Wei worked on his landing and takeoff with Mt. Sinai coach Eric Giorlando, hoping to capture a single moment of greatness that would carry him to victory.
It did way more than that.
“He told me to pull my arms through when I’m completing my jump as my heals hit the sand,” said Wei, who intends to run and jump at MIT next year. “He showed me a few bounds to get my knees up in in the air. It engaged all the different muscles I had to use for the jump."
What followed was the best long jump that Wei’s ever done — and the best in the country this season. Wei flew 24 feet to win, the top mark in the nation as of Friday, according to milesplit.com. It has Wei thinking about both a state and a national title in March.
“We’re thinking really long term here,” he said. “It’s a really long season. It’s really nice to have these big PRs in the middle of the season, but I think it’s holding on and maintaining that will really carry me through…Number one in the country [at the end of the season] would be nice, but there’s still a long way to go.”
And on Saturday morning, Wei won the 55-meter hurdles (7.68), long jump (23-5) and triple jump (45-8.5) at the Suffolk V championships at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood.
This is a culmination of a really long process for Wei. He said he really got serious about winning titles and hitting high marks last season, increasing his training and lifting weights. This season, the dividends are evident.
“I definitely want to go out with a bang,” he said
Wei is, by no means, a brand new name on the Suffolk leaderboard — he’s the defending small school 55-meter hurdles county champion. But having this sort of national presence is something he’s never quite experienced before.
“Last year, I was always considered up there, but I was never considered state-champion caliber or number one material,” he said. “I would be in the top five, but this a new feeling for me and it’s pretty nice.”
It is, no doubt, the result of hard work. Wei said he spends a lot of time in the weight room, getting stronger with a healthy regimen of back squats, leg presses, calf raises, and box jumps.
“I’ve upped the ante in the weight training,” Wei said. “It’s been higher in frequency and higher in weight this year.”
While he’s burst on the national scene as a long jumper, Wei is still a tremendously successful 55-meter hurdler. He won in 7.47 seconds at the Molloy Stanner Games, the best time on Long Island as of Friday. While Wei appreciates what it means to be the standard-bearer in that event, he is also very aware of how strong Suffolk is and that he won’t be able to waltz toward a county title next month.
“Being the best in Suffolk County and Long Island, there’s a lot of people who have run really close to my mark and who’ve run really close to my PRs,” he said. “The best might be coming after me, so I’m really excited for any race that may come up.”