PROVIDENCE â Six months since her shocking win in the high jump at last yearâs outdoor state meet, Kaylnn Pitts was back in her element.
The indoor track & field season began in early December but for the Woonsocket High sophomore on Thursday night it was her first time competing in the vertical leap. Although she has been able to long jump and sprint for the Villa Novans, a tender knee suffered during the fallâs volleyball season has kept Pitts away from the high jump area.
âHer knee was a little sore so we kind of kept her off without putting any pressure on it for a good month,â said Woonsocket girlsâ coach Dan Richard. âIt has healed up and she hasnât had any problems with it since, and sheâs been looking good in practice...We havenât put the bar above five feet, but she has been jumping high fours. She looks really good. Sheâs a little bit taller, a little bit stronger. We have good hopes for the rest of the season.â
âItâs been kind of tough watching other people high jump and not being able to do it, but Iâve got a lot of practice so I am ready,â said Pitts, who had a personal-best effort of 5 feet, 3 inches to capture the 2010 state meet. âMy knee is feeling better.â
Just about 20 minutes before competing in her specialty last night against Dwyer Division rivals Portsmouth and Tolman at the Providence Athletic Facility, Pitts admitted she had some butterflies in her stomach due to the long layoff.
âIâm a little nervous,â she said, âbut I will get over it.â
Proving she hasnât lost her touch, Pitts copped the high jump in her winter debut with a strong five-foot effort â a height that currently puts her in a tie for the best leap in the state with Mount St. Charles junior Ali Sayles. Sayles won the high jump in a Bayha Division meet with Smithfield and Westerly last night with a 4-10 effort.
Richard decided to have Pitts finish at her winning height and not jump any further.
âWe kind of want her to limit her jumps,â he said. âShe hasnât had any soreness so thatâs a good thing.â
What certainly has helped Pitts this indoor season is some quality teammates that are also among the top leapers in the state. Junior Lourdes Villaman, a first-time high jumper, has cleared 4-10, and sophomore Marissa Gelinas has a best of 4-8.
Villaman is the biggest surprise considering she didnât compete in the event prior to this season.
âShe came to us from volleyball and has been a real pleasant surprise,â Richard said. âSheâs a very hard worker and has very good body control. Marissa also jumped last year, but she is just bigger and stronger. All three really work well together. We are excited about it.â
Pitts looked impressive is her series of jumps last night. She opened up at 4-8, which she cleared with ease. She hit the bar with her feet on her first attempt at 4-10, but then sailed over it on her second try. She made five feet on her initial attempt.
âMy coach wanted me to stop there because I already won,â Pitts said afterwards. âI feel like I can definitely jump 5-4, 5-3. I should be able to beat my old record.â
The versatile Pitts also excels in the sprints and the long jump. In last nightâs meet, she ran a leg on the Villa Novansâ winning 4x200-meter relay squad that set a school record of 1:52.0. That quartet also consists of Gelinas, sophomore Krislyn Godin and junior Latoya Dythe. Presently the fourth-ranked long jumper in the state with her best of 16-9, Pitts didnât fare so well in that event against the Tigers and Patriots, fouling on all three of her attempts.
âI didnât get enough run-throughs because I had the 4x200 and the high jump,â she said. âToday was just a little off-day (in the long jump). It will get better.â
The Mountiesâ Sayles has been a key contributor for her teammates. She not only stars in the high jump, but gains valuable points in the sprints and the relays. In addition to capturing the high jump in Thursdayâs meet, she also finished second in the 55 high hurdles (9.5) and was third in the 55 dash (7.7).
âAliâs work ethic is unbelievable,â said MSC coach Paul Jacques. âEveryday she comes to practice ready to go. Sheâs always looking for the extra effort or extra time. Sheâs willing to stay afterwards to get extra jumps in with her teammates. Thatâs the one thing - she is always helping her teammates whether itâs the high jump or a running event.
âShe is a junior captain and we do look for her to try and score as many points for us as possible.â
Sayles, who had a PB of 4-11 last year but did not compete in the state meet, is confident this winter.
âI have had more practices, definitely more focusing on the high jump,â she said. âI have focused more on my technique.â
Although she came short of five feet, Sayles was satisfied with how she did last night.
âOverall for today, I did something new,â she said. âI came in at 4-4 for the first time. I honestly feel thatâs better for me personally. I just need to shake off the nerves. Overall, for today, I think I had a really good performance.â
The Mounties have an elite sprinter in senior Brianne Mastaj, who is also an all-state soccer player. Mastaj is ranked No. 7 in the 300 with her time of 43.7.
Mastaj won that event last night in 44.2 and also anchored her teamâs victorious 4x200 relay squad.
âSheâs a great addition to the team,â Jacques said. âSheâs the anchor on the 4x200. They pulled through today because of her never-quit attitude.â