By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Pasadena High School’s track and field staff thought it had the makings of a high jumper who might score a few dual meet points here and there this season.
They could only hope that adding Todd Barnes Jr. to the team might result in potential CIF-Southern Section championship points.
Barnes was making a late start to the season after the Bulldogs made a long run into the CIF State basketball playoffs. He had never tried the high jump before.
In his first outing, a Pacific League meet against Crescenta Valley, he cleared 6 feet, 4 inches. Two days later, in the Percy Knox Invitational at College of the Canyons, he went 6-6. He missed on all three attempts at 6-8, but on a fourth try he cleared that height, too.
“He had just come off the basketball court,” Pasadena first-year coach Addison Hawthorne said. “Until he got here, the only one we had jumping was (senior) Alexis Walker, and she’s been working with a private coach. We didn’t even bother getting the mats out. Todd came out and we knew he wanted to jump, so after Percy Knox we just started bringing the mats out.”
With no formal training, the coaching staff knew it had an individual that could attain top heights. As in able to match Jon Wratten, who went 6-9 in the Pasadena Games and won a CIF-Southern Section Division II title with a jump of 6-8. He also won a CIF-SS Masters title.
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“I just watched the Olympics and I got motivated,” Barnes said. “I was like, `I’m the highest jumper in Pasadena basketball-wise,’ so I thought I would try high jumping.”
The junior made a big breakthrough at the San Gabriel Valley Championships a week and a half ago at West Covina High. He cleared 6-10 by nearly 2 inches and nearly made 6-11.
“I was surprised, I really was,” he said of becoming one of the top high jumpers in the school’s history. “It was a big confidence boost.”
It put Barnes atop the California map. JSerra senior Harrsion Steed has gone higher this year, at 7-2
All with no formal training and without a coach.
“It’s very amazing,” Hawthorne said. “He’s just doing it off pure ability. He honestly hasn’t been getting any coaching. We had a coach, but he walked out on us for some reason.
“As long as we can get him some proper training, next year he’ll be jumping 7-feet-2. He can be something special.”
Barnes could dunk a basketball when he was in the eighth grade. He did not play basketball his freshman year at PHS and then lived in Hawaii with his aunt and uncle last year. He joined the Pasadena basketball team this season, but spent most of his time on the bench.
“Basketball does help this a little bit, but my athleticism keeps me jumping high,” he said. “I’m going off just my jumping. If I can work on my technique, I can probably clear 7-2.”
Barnes will be the odds-on favorite to win the Pacific League title on Friday at Glendale High. He’ll probably need to just keep up his consistent jumping to make the CIF-SS Finals and potentially the CIF State meet in June.
In some ways, there is a method to lack-of-technique madness.
“Honestly, it’s not hard at all,” he said. “I don’t think about anything. I just go out and do what I’m supposed to, what I’m told to do.”
That could lead to Pasadena’s third CIF-SS title in the event.
“I really wasn’t thinking about CIF,” he said, reflecting on the past month. “I wasn’t thinking I would get over 6-10. I thought I would keep it at 6-4, but I just kept going.”
“He’s always thinking positive,” Hawthorne said. “He has tremendous upside.”
He’s also adept in the 400 and 800 meters and will be vying for league titles in those events, along with the 1,600 relay, too.
“I’ve been thinking that track could be my ticket to my way out,” he said. “In basketball, if I don’t blow up, then I’m going to stick to track.”