No. 2 - Jyles Etienne Sets Indoor Record During Outdoor Season
Rarely getting the limelight that the track athletes get in New York State, field events are sometimes contested in the fringe, outside the oval. However, two athletes brought the crowds with them, and created the best head-to-head competition in any event, by any gender, throughout the 2017 season.
Dan Claxton and Jyles Etienne were two high jumpers from Suffolk County. The pair knew each other well. Claxton had gotten the edge over Etienne as a sophomore, setting the Soph State Record. But by junior year, Etienne had caught up, and got the better of Claxton at Penn Relays, and the County Champs. Claxton returned to beat Etienne at State Quals, but trading back, with Etienne grabbing his first State Title at CNS last year. Both would be back, for one last showing, as seniors in 2017.
Their pairing would have to wait until Spring. Given Etienne's height, he played basketball in the indoor season, heading deep into the State Finals. Meanwhile, Claxton was competing at his best ever. In his second meet of the season, he matched his outdoor best of 6-11. A month and a half later, and Claxton became the first New Yorker over 7ft since the year 2005. At States, he went on to defend his State Title in the High Jump, once again hitting a strong 6-11. Heading to Nationals, Claxton was competing against the best. The competition pulled him to his highest jump yet, a 7-0.25 clearance, but it was only good for third, based on jumpbacks. Still, the mark counted as the Suffolk Record, and capped off a great season.
Meanwhile, Etienne was working his way back. He contested the High Jump after the basketball season was over. Jumping only once indoors, Etienne took a slow return with a 6-8.5 clearance. Indoors was only a warmup. Etienne was getting ready to compete overseas. Ten days later Etienne was in the Bahamas, trying out for the Bahamian CARIFTA team. There, he would take a new personal best, 7-1.75 in a somewhat controversial manner. He was originally DQ'ed for the mark, but was reinstated after a protest. The mark was a new Suffolk Record, and put Claxton on notice. Both would have to improve to prevail.
Etienne would once again reaffirm he was ready to compete, after heading to a bronze medal at CARIFTA. His mark of 7-1 was done without controversy, and his first matchup with Claxton at Penn Relays was on the horizon. In Philly, the pair came to jump. Claxton came in first 6-5, while Etienne clearing his first attempt at 6-6.75. Claxton would clear the next three heights on the first attempt, while Etienne passed up to 6-9, and only making that on the final attempt. Claxton had the lead on jumpbacks heading into 6-10.25, but missed his first two attempts. Etienne cleared on his first attempt. That would decide the matchup, as the pair each couldn't reach the next height. Score one for Etienne on the season.
One week later, our moment occurred. The pair would meet again. It was the Saint Anthony's Invite, and the rain was coming down heavy. Meet management made the wise decision to utilize the attached indoor facility for all field events, for concerns over safety. For the first time ever, Claxton and Etienne would meet up at full strength, indoors. Because of the conditions, the event would count as an Indoor Meet. The pair went at it, as usual. Etienne cleared 6-7.25 on the first attempt. Claxton matched. Etienne over 6-9 again, first attempt. Both made 6-10. Then it happened. Etienne cleared 6-11, but Claxton couldn't match. Jyles Etienne had won. All that was left was to chase Claxton's marks from Indoor.
Up the bar went. Etienne could pick any mark he wanted. He put it up to 2.16m, or 7-1 in American measurement. On his first attempt, Etienne took his approach, but the jump felt off. He slowed down on the J-turn, and slid under the bar. Instead of trying again, he pushed the bar up to 2.20m, or 7-2.5. If he was going to clear something, might as well make it historical. On the first attempt, he pushed the approach. Up he went, his back over the bar. As he twisted around, his butt hit the bar, causing a stir. But, the bar stayed place, not chasing the athlete down to the mat. Etienne had set a new National Indoor Leader, in the middle of May. It was the second highest jump ever by a New Yorker Indoors, and replaced Claxton's Indoor Sectional Record. Confidence booming, Etienne moved the bar up once again, now to 2.23m, or 7-3.75. It would be higher than the Outdoor Record of 7-3, but fall just short of the Indoor Record at 7-4. Etienne took one good attempt, lacking the needed rotation, but couldn't find the same heights on the next two jumps. A new personal best would be good enough, and the second highest jump, Indoors or Out, ever in State History.
The pair would meet up twice more within the season. Claxton would get the advantage both times, but not before equaling Jyles' Sectional Outdoor Record of 7-1.75 at the State Qualifier. Claxton would follow that up with his first State Title, also over 7-0, and a reverse of fortune at Outdoor Nationals. Etienne would take fourth, while opposite to Indoors, Claxton would win the National Title based on jumpbacks, clearing 7-0.25.
Both finish their careers with jumps over 7ft in both Indoors and Outdoors, rounding out the total athletes who have done so in State History to an even ten. What a year for the event, and no question the top boys event of the year.
Fast Stats - Dan Claxton & Jyles Etienne - All-Time Marks
Etienne - US #12 - HJ Indoor
Claxton - NY #4 - HJ Indoor
Etienne - NY #2 - HJ Indoor
Both Tied - NY #3 - Outdoor