Perhaps one could forgive Hays Rebel freshman high jumper Reagan Casey for feeling a little anxious prior to competing at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin Friday.
It was only two years ago that Casey began her track and field career as a high jumper at Dahlstrom Middle School.
On Friday, Casey was one of only two freshmen to compete in the high school girls’ high jump at the 90th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
For Casey, the experience of going up against some of the nation’s best high school jumpers was a moment to savor.
“It’s awesome,” Casey said. “Being one of the only freshman out here is a big deal for me.”
Casey’s path toward her inaugural Texas Relays appearance began in middle school.
As a 7th grader in her first track and field meet, Casey cleared 4-feet, 10-inches in the high jump. Casey recalled how current teammate Lexi McFadden, who was a freshman at the time and was helping at the event, was impressed by Casey’s performance.
“She was blown away,” Casey said. “She told me to keep working on it and I could end up doing well (in the sport).”
The pattern of strong first impressions continued when Casey entered high school.
Kevin Bussinger, Hays girls high jump coach, said he didn’t know what to expect from Casey until she began to consistently work out with the track team several weeks ago.
It didn’t take long for Casey to show her competitive nature.
During the team’s first track meet at Canyon Lake, Casey debuted by winning the event with a clearance of 5-feet, 6-inches.
The height was only two inches shy of the Hays girls high jump all-time record.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never had a girl jump (5-feet, 6-inches … For her to do that as a freshman, it’s amazing.”
Kevin Bussinger, Hays girls high jump coach
The jump helped usher an invite to the Texas Relays.
Competing on the big stage was a new moment for Casey, who said she was admittedly anxious prior to competing. The venue, mixed with some of the athletes she was competing against, brought a slight sense of nervousness.
Casey’s experience at the Texas Relays finished with a jump that cleared 5-feet, 2-inches.
“I’m with all of these 17-year-olds and everyone was older than me,” Casey said.
But for Casey, who eyes competing in the high jump in college, taking part in the Texas Relays was a strong opportunity to see the sport at its best.
Bussinger said Casey is a “great competitor” and is learning to adjust to improve her skills. She’s also acquiring the chance to compete under pressure and is “getting comfortable with everything.”
“High jump is one of those crazy sports where if you’re a half stride ahead, you can’t jump. If you’re a half-stride behind, you can’t jump. Everything has to be perfect,” Bussinger, said. “It’s just a matter of consistency and getting there.”
With the district track meet on the horizon, Bussinger said he expects big things from Casey as she closes her first varsity track season, and could potentially continue jumping on the club level in the summer.
“She’s got into her mind (high jumping) is her sport,” Bussinger said. “Deep down in there, this is her sport. She takes it seriously. It’s going to be fun to see where she goes from here.”