You could say Grant May took the scenic route to becoming a state long jump champion.
As a freshman at Glenwood, May elected to play golf. As a sophomore, he was a junior varsity jumper. And as a junior, he split time between the track team and his select basketball squad, which caused him to miss some practices and meets.
“Up until last year, I didn't take much of an interest in track,” May said. “Basketball's been my love forever.”
Despite his initial aversion to the sport, May's jumping and sprinting ability could not be denied. Last year at state, he broke his own school record five times in his six jumps and captured the Class 3-A title at 22 feet. Last week, he again eclipsed his school record with a leap of 22-½, and he will be a key cog as the Rams again field one of western Iowa's best teams this spring.
May's commitment to his favorite sport put his track coach in a quandary that's becoming more and more common. Mark Starner decided to compromise, feeling that having May part of the time was better than not at all.
May was the lone Iowan last year on the Omaha Sports Academy's Crusaders, an under-17 select basketball team coached by Bellevue West's Doug Woodard. There were times when May missed track meets due to tournaments and practices. There were other conflicts, like the early April home meet when May wasn't sure he wanted to long jump. Starner explained Glenwood's tradition of winning home track meets and convinced him to take one jump. He set a school record of 21-7½ on that jump.
“He was kind of reluctant, but he still had the hunger to compete,” Starner said.
May said offseason basketball drastically improved his game. This past season he averaged 12.9 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range to earn first-team All-Hawkeye Ten Conference and second-team All-Western Iowa honors.
“The experience of playing against better and faster players has really helped,” he said.
It also appears to have aided his long jumping. Starner said many long jumpers peak early in the season and often struggle to meet those standards as the year wears on. May continued to improve, culminating in his remarkable performance at state.
Entering with the school record of 21-7½, his jumps, in order, were 21-11¼, 21-9¼, 22-0, 21-8¼, a foul and 21-10¾. He won the state title by a quarter inch.
“I never thought I was going to be a state champion,” he said.
This season, May also shines on the track. He's run a hand-timed 11.4 seconds in the 100 meters and a fully automatic 23.21 in the 200. He's run on several winning 400 and 800 relays.
“He's come a long ways,” Starner said. “He's so much stronger, and he works his tail off in practice.”
A repeat long jump title might be a formidable challenge. Already in 3-A, Keokuk senior Darrion Sanders has gone 23-3 and Clear Lake sophomore Chandler Diercks has gone 22-7. But May said he has high hopes for the rest of his season.
“My goal is to get to 23 feet and beyond by state,” he said.
May said his future might now include the sport he's taken some time to warm to. He's considering competing in basketball and track in college, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney is among those on his list.
“I definitely want to do both,” he said.
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