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WHS’s Olney jumps into multi-tasking

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Matthew Olney is shifting his focus this season.

The Watertown High School junior and defending Frontier League high jump champion is training for the pentathlon.

“I like to multi-task,” Olney said. “And if I do badly in an event, I can make up for it in another one.”

Besides the high jump, the pentathlon consists of the 110-meter hurdles, 1,500 run, long jump and shot put. Competitors are scored on a points system for each event and the totals are compiled.

Olney’s athletic ability allows him the versatility to compete in a cross-section of events.

“He’s one of the most coachable athletes I’ve ever had,” Watertown coach Paul Gaede said. “He listens, he takes advice and he applies it. It’s a good trait to have.”

The pentathlon is an event not offered during regular-season league meets. To prepare for it, Olney competes in each individual event during the season.

He says his weakest pentathlon event is the 1,500. He struggled with the shot put but has since tweaked his form and is throwing much better.

Olney competed in his first pentathlon at the Chittenango Invitational on April 26, winning the event with 2,581 points.

“I would have gotten into the pentathlon sooner if I knew that I could do everything, but it was always about the high jump,” Olney said.

He plans to compete in the pentathlon at the Section 3 meets, and his No. 1 goal is to qualify for states. He also has his sights on the school record set by Anthony Johnson who scored 3,036 points in 2010.

Despite becoming a more diverse competitor, Olney indicated his signature event will always be the high jump.

“I don’t mind doing any event, as long as I can do high jump every time,” Olney said.

The school’s high jump record is 6-8, set by Mike Bulger in 1977, and Olney would like to own that mark by the time his high school career is over.

“There’s more to the high jump than the name itself,” Olney said. “It’s more than just jumping high. It’s a lot of time and a lot of practice, and if you want to be good at it you have to put the effort in.”

High jumpers use the Fosbury Flop technique to clear their bodies over the horizontal bar. The style was perfected by Dick Fosbury, an American gold-medalist in the high jump during the 1968 Summer Olympics. It’s now the standard form for performing the high jump.

Athletes clear the bar head first and backward by jumping and arching their backs over the bar. Mastering proper form is key to a high jumper’s success, and Olney is right on track.

“You have to have natural jumping ability, of course, but his technique at times is flawless,” Gaede said.

Olney has jumped as high as 6-feet-4 during competition, once last year and again last week.

“The first time I jumped 6-4, I was just ecstatic,” Olney said. “All this adrenaline was pumping through my body and I was like, ‘Wow, I just jumped 6-4 and that’s what the kids in Syracuse and all the big schools are jumping.’ I thought that was a good personal accomplishment.”

BARTLETT HOLDS LEAGUE RECORD

Kylee Bartlett is the Frontier League record-holder in the girls pentathlon.

The Altmar-Parish-Williamstown sophomore set the mark last season while scoring 2,986 points to capture the Division II pentathlon at the Section 3 state qualifier. She finished fourth in Division II at the state meet.

Bartlett is the defending league and Section 3 Class B2 champion in the 100 hurdles and high jump and also a sectional champ in the long jump.

This year she leads the league in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.50 seconds and the high jump with a height of 5-3. She’s second in the long jump with a leap of 16-2.

Bartlett was out this season with an injury for a couple weeks but appears to be full strength again, according to APW coach Steve Fox. Her short-term goals are to break 3,000 points in the pentathlon and tie or break the league high jump record of 5-4.

She is expected to compete in her first pentathlon of the season on Friday at Fulton.

Although Bartlett is only a sophomore, this is her last season to make her mark in the Frontier League as APW is returning to the Onondaga High School League next school year.

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