HULL, Iowa -- Cori DeJong burst onto the scene three years ago, winning the Iowa Class 2A state girls high jump championship as a freshman.
The Western Christian High School senior cleared 5-foot-7 that glorious day in Des Moines, establishing herself as one of the best the state has to offer. Injuries have slowed DeJong since then, but she got off to a fast start in the only outdoor meet her team has had a chance to compete in this season.
As we all know, inclement weather has wreaked havoc on high school outdoor sports in this area, forcing more postponements and cancellations than actual competition.
Western, though, was able to take part in the Sioux Center Invitational last week and DeJong won her specialty, leaping 5-3 in the high jump while also leading off the victorious distance medley relay.
For that DeJong is honored as the Sioux City Journal’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week.
“When she came in as a freshman I had two girls who had jumped 5-feet the year before, so when she came in I didn’t even consider her being on the radar of being a high-jumper,” Western Christian Coach Mark Fenchel said. “Her first indoor meet she came out of nowhere and all of a sudden she was our varsity high jumper and never looked back.
“She jumped 5-3 at districts that first year which was, by a couple of inches, her best. Then when she got down to state she popped off four extra inches. There was so much upside, no pressure for a freshman. It was quite a day.”
DeJong has made it back to state each of the last two seasons, placing third and fourth, respectively. Part of that had to do with a calf strain, so Fenchel has decided to cut down on her practice running a bit this season.
“I’m trying to stay away from that happening again this year and hopefully I’ll be healthy,” DeJong said. “I went down to more shorter distances, I don’t run 400s much anymore because that is kind of hurt my legs more.”
Winning state as a freshman surprised DeJong, but once she started winning almost every meet, her expectations grew.
“My freshman year once I started winning, it was like, ‘OK, maybe I can place at state’,” DeJong said. “Then when I got to state it was ‘maybe I can win.’ It just kind of kept progressing.”
The 18-year-old daughter of Greg and Jackie DeJong puts in a lot of extra time honing her craft, albeit so far this spring most of that has been indoors at Dordt College, where she will compete beginning next fall.
“I love to compete and with running you have to do it at that exact moment but in the high jump you can take time to focus and do your own thing,” DeJong said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else, just yourself pretty much.”
Her goals coming into her final prep season (if indeed Mother Nature lets that happen) are to beat her personal record (the 5-7 at state) and to keep her legs healthy so she doesn’t have to deal with any injuries.
“I definitely think it’s possible,” DeJong said “I have to have confidence in myself or it’s never going to happen.”
DeJong has run on state-qualifying distance medley relay teams each of the past two seasons. She teamed with Jessi DeJager, Abby Postma and Bailey Nelson for a win in Sioux Center with a time of 4:45.42.
“Honestly, I could use her more as a runner if I wanted to,” Fenchel said. “But we found out her sophomore year we wore her legs down toward the end of the year running her so much. I think that hampered her jumping so we’ve always been a little leery of that.”
DeJong, a National Honor Society student, was a four-year member of the highly successful Western Christian volleyball team and played basketball for three seasons.
She, like every other track and field athlete in this part of the state, is hoping for nicer weather to arrive.
“I’m just hoping for some good weather so we can get out and compete,” DeJong said. “Because practicing is not very competitive because I’m just by myself. I’m definitely ready for some meets so that I can compete against some other people.”
Nick Phelps, Kingsley-Pierson/Woodbury Central…The senior uncorked a heave of 196 feet, 2.5 inches in the discus in a meet at Harlan on Tuesday, taking the national high school lead in the event.
Sydney Durbin, OA-BCIG…The junior and former state champion high jumper cleared 5-2 to win at the West Monona Relays and also ran on two winning relay squads.