For triple-jump star Christina Warren, the key is calm.
But before she takes flight, the Perkiomen Valley senior needs a specific sight.
Thursday afternoon. while the sun and clouds tussled for control above the 125th Penn Relays, a familiar palm brought her calm.
As she stood on the runway during warmups at Franklin Field, Warren frantically waved.
Without her glasses on, Warren explained, she has trouble locating her coach, Ron Livers.
“Basically,” she said, “it’s a call for his attention and a call to make sure I know he’s there.”
When Livers waves back, Warren can fly free.
“I do get some reassurance,” she said, “because I know when he’s watching that I’ll get some feedback.”
Just before she landed a personal record of 41 feet, 4½ inches, Livers, a PIAA triple-jump champion at Norristown in 1972 and 1973, suggested Warren move back before beginning her sprint down the runway.
The result was a three-peat of sorts. Warren finished fourth behind Jamaicans Ackelia Smith (42-8¾), Lotavia Brown (42-5¼), and Rhianna Phipps (41-10) and was the top American finisher for the third straight year. She was also fourth overall last year and in 2017.
“Doing it once is one thing, but when you’re trying to repeat a finish like that the pressure is higher because it’s a very specific goal,” Warren said. “So to be able to do that three times in a row means more than the first time because I was able to pull through.”
Warren’s next attempt at a three-peat will come later this season during the PIAA championships, where she won the triple jump as a sophomore and junior.
Liliana Cohen is a self-described thrill-seeker by nature, but the pole vault can make even the bravest a bit squeamish.
The Germantown Academy junior was slightly disappointed with her fifth-place finish Thursday, but don’t expect her to be down for long.
“Starting tomorrow, I think,” she said, “we’ve got to get more repetitions in.”
Moving to longer and heavier poles, she said, may have thrown her off Thursday.
Those poles bend more, which means an even more precarious position while airborne.
“It feels like there’s nothing there,” said Cohen, who spent her freshman and sophomore years at a school in New York. “It feels like you’re literally getting upside down over a metal box, which is kind of scary. But that’s the part I have to get used to.”
Gen Hirata of Stafford (Va.) took first place at 13-7¾. Manheim Township’s Sydney Horn claimed second at 13-1¾, and Cohen was at 11-11¾.
“You have to be tenacious, attack the pole, trust yourself, and move it with your arms,” Cohen said. “Some people wig out and don’t jump. It’s common.”
The 17-year-old has no doubt she will be back for more in no time.
“It won’t take me that long to build up my confidence,” she said.
In other events Thursday, Tierra Hooker of Timber Creek was third in the girls’ high jump at 5-8¾, and Adria Retter of Quakertown was eighth in the girls’ discus throw at 131-8.
Meaghan Toscano of Germantown Academy was fourth in the shot put with a throw of 43-11, and Cydney Thomas of Haddon Heights was sixth at 43-4.
In the 4x800-meter relay qualifying races, the Neumann-Goretti team of Makayla Perry (split of 2 minutes, 16.86 seconds), Dasia Wilson (2:16.27), Sanaiya Watts (2:18.22), and Kami Joi Hickson (2:14.51) won its girls’ small-school heat in 9:05.84.
The Friends’ Central team of Isabel MacFarland (2:21.30), Micah Trusty (2:17.22), Rebecca Wusinich (2:25.55), and Lydia Russell (2:19.19) was third in a different girls’ small-schools 4x800 heat in 9:23.25.
The 4x800 championship race is set for 1:05 p.m. Friday.