When athletes achieve a high level of success there is a certain kinship that comes along with it and an automatic level of respect follows. Being able to long jump more than 24 feet has a way of bringing a couple of guys together.
That was the case with Mountain Pointe (Phoenix)
junior Travonn White and Olympic hopeful Will Claye when they met in November.
Claye is a Mountain Pointe graduate who left after his junior with the school record in the long jump to enroll at Oklahoma (before eventually winning a national title for Florida). White is a talented multi-sport athlete that lost his chance at a state title as a sophomore after being suspended because he was caught on campus doing something ill-advised and it cost him the end of the season.
"I've matured," he said. "I've learned a lot."
There has never been any question about White's athletic ability on the football field or track since he transferred from St. Mary's (Phoenix). As long as he got his head on straight, he could be a force, and that was evident recently at the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State.
Not only did White break the school record in the long jump, surpassing Claye's effort of 24 feet and 3 inches, but he was also tearing it up in the sprints as well.
He finished third in the 100-meter dash in 10.92 seconds behind teammate and champion Ben Trotter (10.6), and finished eighth in the 200 in 22.34.
But it was in the long jump pit where he really soared, as White set the meet record at 24-10.5, and it was even sweeter by the fact that Claye was in attendance.
"That meant a lot to me," White said. "I've had some talks with him and we are pretty competitive with each other. It was cool doing it with Will there."
The mark is the best in the state and sets him up as the favorite once again as the state meet approaches on May 9, 11 and 12 at Mesa Community College.
"I want to win state," White said at the Chandler Rotary. "I know I messed up last year. I let a lot of people down, including myself."
Pride sprint and horizontal jump coach Larry Todd said he sees a different kid than the one who was still finding his way at Mountain Pointe after coming from St. Mary's over Christmas break in 2010.
"He has matured greatly over the last year," Todd said. "He is an intense and very competitive kid. He understands what it takes to be able to compete at a high level. He knows now that it's just as important to be responsible on and off the track."
White, who is also one of the state's top triple jumpers, said it started to sink in after a few meetings with Claye. White had a chance to see firsthand how someone from Mountain Pointe can seemingly make all the right choices on the way to national titles in college and now be a favorite in the 2012 London Olympic Games this summer.
"I realized if I take care of things and make the right choices I can be just like him," White said. "If he can get there then so can I. It really opened my eyes."
The Pride coaching staff made the meeting happen to give White, and everyone else in the program, an idea of what can be achieved when focus, talent and luck converge in the right heart.
"It is huge for these kids to see a success story like that," Todd said. "Travonn got a chance to meet him in November and they had a chance to sit down and have a conversation. It is not only about being a great athlete but about what it takes to maintain and continue to improve in all matters of life.
"I think that really hit him with Travonn."
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothill News staff writer, is a 15-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.