Though Jyles Etienne does not compete in indoor track — he plays basketball for The Stony Brook School instead — he became the owner of the nation’s best indoor high jump for the 2016-17 high school season last weekend by clearing 7 feet, 2 1⁄2 inches at the St. Anthony’s Invitational.
Though the indoor season is over, rainstorms forced the outdoor event inside, changing not only where the results go for bookkeeping purposes, but Etienne’s approach.
“I had to keep moving back because my steps were too close to the bar,” said Etienne, a native of the Bahamas, who said he had previously jumped twice in indoor competition. “It took me about four jumps. By my 6-11 jump, I think I got it great. It felt good. I attempted big heights afterward.”
Not only did he attempt big heights, he jumped higher than anyone did all winter to earn Newsday Athlete of the Week honors. His 7-2 1⁄2-mark counts as the best indoor jump in the country this season, the fourth-best in the world for athletes under 20-years-old, and the second-highest ever in the state, according to the track and field website Milesplit.
The jump was just a continuation of Etienne’s outstanding track season. He passed the 7-foot barrier, jumping 7-1 3⁄4, a personal record, at the Carifta Games Trials on April 1 in his native Bahamas before his high school season even began.
“I think, if I didn’t get it, there might have been a question of ‘can I ever do it?’ ” said Etienne, the defending state outdoor champion, who won the crown with a jump of 6-10. “To get [seven feet] out of the way was a huge lift. Now, I can just keep PR’ing,” he said alluding to his personal record. “Last year, I only PR’ed once, and I think the 7-foot barrier added to that. It was very big.”
Etienne, who said he does 700 situps per night to stay in shape, wants to break the 2001 state record of 7-3 held by Dan Olson of Albany Academy.
Those around him believe that Etienne, who will jump for Indiana University next year, will only get better.
“He knows that he can be the best in the world at this down the line,” Stony Brook coach Dan Hickey said. “He is the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen or been around . . . When he goes to Indiana next year and is in the hands of a Division-I strength and conditioning coach, I think the sky is the limit for him. He’s going to be an absolute skyscraper.”