It's difficult to imagine that Jacob Haqq could perform better than he had been coming into the 2019-20 winter track season.
The Unatego senior's resume was littered with first-and second-place finishes at the County, Section and State level in a variety of events so even he wasn't sure of how much better he could get in the long and triple jump. Yet, there he was in early November working on changing his technique as the winter season was about to begin.
The change in form hasn't resulted in a change in where Haqq has finished, though. He has five first-place finishes in as many meets in the triple jump and two first- and second-place long jump finishes in as many meets. He's also the No. 2 ranked jumper in New York State so the alterations may have come as surprise to some.
Even Haqq himself was a bit unsure of making changes when Stephen "Spike" Paranya suggested doing so back in November. Paranya, the long-time Sidney High coach, has been working with Haqq for two years as the two schools, along with Delhi, formed a combined squad when Unatego and Dehli wanted indoor teams but didn't have the numbers to support one.
All three schools have gone solo this season after four years together but that hasn't prevented Haqq and Paranya from working together. They still meet two to three times a week.
"This has been a reboot year for me," said Haqq, who had a personal-best long jump of 22-1.75in The TCITL Frank De Masi Invite [Dec. 29]. "We started from the ground up and revamped my entire form. I began taking a shorter approach that I usually do. Spike decided that the only way I was going to get better was to take the next step.
"I didn't really think I needed to do it in beginning of season but now that I have taken that step, it has definitely helped out. I don't think I could have got much further with my old form."
Paranya had Haqq, 18, switch to a double-arm style during his jumps while working on having him take a shorter approach so he could have more control over all phases of his jump. He's now using both arms to launch himself in his second and third phases rather than using a single arm. Once Haqq began to understand and employ the tactics needed to improve his second and third phases, he went back to work on his first phase.
"I'm working on keeping my swing leg more relaxed," said Haqq, who had a personal-best 46-4.5 triple jump at the Ithaca College Bomber Invitational (Dec.14). "The single to double arm threw a wrench in things but I think I have it down now for the most part. I work on it a lot in practice until it becomes second nature.
"In my early meets, it was obvious I was still clunky with my form. I was definitely nervous and also pretty scared. I wanted this to be a breakout season, my last hurrah. I think outdoor could be that season for me. Indoor is a working season. I'm working on form. Once outdoor comes it will skyrocket and I'll get good marks. This will better prepare me for college."
Haqq will be taking his talents to Boston University in the fall and his choice of words to describe his hopes for spring is apropos. He plans on majoring in physics and minoring in astronomy with the hopes of someday landing a job as a physicist with either NASA or SpaceX. Haqq would love to someday help put man back on the moon or on Mars.
While Haqq doesn't have any desire to go into space himself, he has been fascinated with it since he given a telescope as a six-year-old. He fell in love with physics after taking it as a class for the first time last year. He was hoping to combine the two when learned that "astrophysics" was a thing.
"I got the telescope for Christmas and I didn't have an interest before that," he said. "As soon as I got it, I started using it almost every night to look at the moon and stars and I kind of fell in love with it. I'll leave space for the astronauts but I can help plan their missions. NASA has definitively been a dream of mine for a while.
"And, it's just nice to think about how physics is all around us. To me, it makes everything make sense. It has a lot to do with math and that's something I have been good at for a few years now."
Haqq briefly considered a military route to NASA when he was a freshman. His older sister Dahlia, 20, is in the army and is stationed at Fort Irwin in California. When his track career starting taking off as a sophomore, though, he knew he wanted to continue that in college so his brief flirtation with the service came to an end.
"I wanted to find a good balance between good academic programs and a good track team and I am happy with Boston," Haqq said.