PROVIDENCE – Six months since her shocking win in the high jump at last year’s 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 fall’s volleyball season has kept Pitts away from the high jump area.
“Her knee was a little sore so we kind of kept her off without putting any pressure on it for a good month,” said Woonsocket girls’ coach Dan Richard. “It has healed up and she hasn’t had any problems with it since, and she’s been looking good in practice...We haven’t put the bar above five feet, but she has been jumping high fours. She looks really good. She’s a little bit taller, a little bit stronger. We have good hopes for the rest of the season.”
“It’s been kind of tough watching other people high jump and not being able to do it, but I’ve got a lot of practice so I am ready,” said Pitts, who had a personal-best effort of 5 feet, 3 inches to capture the 2010 state meet. “My knee is feeling better.”
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.
“I’m a little nervous,” she said, “but I will get over it.”
Proving she hasn’t lost her touch, Pitts copped the high jump in her winter debut with a strong five-foot effort – 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.
“We kind of want her to limit her jumps,” he said. “She hasn’t had any soreness so that’s a good thing.”
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 didn’t compete in the event prior to this season.
“She came to us from volleyball and has been a real pleasant surprise,” Richard said. “She’s 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.”
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.
“My coach wanted me to stop there because I already won,” Pitts said afterwards. “I feel like I can definitely jump 5-4, 5-3. I should be able to beat my old record.”
The versatile Pitts also excels in the sprints and the long jump. In last night’s meet, she ran a leg on the Villa Novans’ 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 didn’t fare so well in that event against the Tigers and Patriots, fouling on all three of her attempts.
“I didn’t get enough run-throughs because I had the 4x200 and the high jump,” she said. “Today was just a little off-day (in the long jump). It will get better.”
The Mounties’ 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 Thursday’s meet, she also finished second in the 55 high hurdles (9.5) and was third in the 55 dash (7.7).
“Ali’s work ethic is unbelievable,” said MSC coach Paul Jacques. “Everyday she comes to practice ready to go. She’s always looking for the extra effort or extra time. She’s willing to stay afterwards to get extra jumps in with her teammates. That’s the one thing - she is always helping her teammates whether it’s the high jump or a running event.
“She is a junior captain and we do look for her to try and score as many points for us as possible.”
Sayles, who had a PB of 4-11 last year but did not compete in the state meet, is confident this winter.
“I have had more practices, definitely more focusing on the high jump,” she said. “I have focused more on my technique.”
Although she came short of five feet, Sayles was satisfied with how she did last night.
“Overall for today, I did something new,” she said. “I came in at 4-4 for the first time. I honestly feel that’s better for me personally. I just need to shake off the nerves. Overall, for today, I think I had a really good performance.”
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 team’s victorious 4x200 relay squad.
“She’s a great addition to the team,” Jacques said. “She’s the anchor on the 4x200. They pulled through today because of her never-quit attitude.”