By Keith Lair, staff writer
The surprise of the high school track and field season has been the late-season surge of Devin Thompson.
The Rowland High School senior is only one of two San Gabriel Valley athletes competing in two individual events in this weekend’s CIF State meet in Clovis.
Thompson did not compete for 1 1/2 years because of academic issues. He will try to qualify for the finals in both the long and triple jumps on Friday.
“It’s been a wake-up call,” Thompson said. “I’m treating this as more of a comeback season. I really have to thank coach (Dan) Luna and the staff for pushing me through all these obstacles and making me eligible for track.
“I went in as an underdog and I’ve come out out in the middle of the pack. I’m pretty confident at this point.”
Thompson has been to the CIF State meet before, rooting on then-Covina teammate Remontay McClain to titles in the 100 and 200 meters. He reached the CIF-Southern Section finals in the triple jump his sophomore year.
“I did not think in all of my dreams I would make it to state,” he said. “Back then I told myself in the back of my head that I have to be back here, have to be back here. And then I’m here.”
His family moved from Covina to Rowland Heights after his sophomore year and Thompson, who also played basketball at Covina, said he played in one basketball game for the Raiders last year before learning he was ineligible.
“I thought it would be really, really hard, but it turned out to not be as hard as I thought,” he said. “I had to put myself mentally into everything and do all my homework.
“I was pretty bummed out.”
But on June 6, Thompson expects to be walking through Rowland’s graduation ceremonies.
“I spent that time making up credits, making sure I could compete this year, I did not want it to be my senior year and regret it.”
Thompson missed three Hacienda League meets this year.
“I did not think he would be eligible,” said Luna, who coached Nick Rivera to the state 800 finals last year. “I saw that his report card came up and had risen, so I went to him and said, `Devin, you’re eligible. He said, `Really?’ ”
“I was so stoked when I found that out,” Thompson said.
Luna said it has been a matter of maturity.
“I told him if he’s not taking care of business, he’s wasting his time and my time,” Luna said. “I said that if he takes care of business, I’ll be here, but he’s got to do this, this and this and he’s done it. He’s made a definite step in the right direction.”
He made his competitors take notice right away. In his second meet of the season, he won the San Gabriel Valley Championships with a wind-aided jump of 47 feet, 1 1/2 inches, beating favored Josh Webster of South Hills.
“He’s just rounding into shape,” Luna said. “We’re just scratching the surface because we’re just playing catch-up with everyone right now. But we’re quickly catching up.”
Thompson won the league titles in both events and finished second in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finals in the long jump in 22-6 1/4 and fourth in the triple jump at 45-4 1/2.
Both earned long-odd berths in last weekend’s CIF-SS Masters Meet. He was seeded 11th in the long jump and 10th in the triple jump. He needed to finish in the top six in each or make a qualifying standard. On his sixth and final jump at Cerritos College, he launched a wind-aided eye-popping 22-10 1/4 to secure fifth and earn a spot in state in the long jump.
“I tried to put everything I had in that last jump,” he said. “I am really, really surprised, to be honest, to advance.”
He had jumped 22-6 3/4 on his first attempt and Luna told him he needed to jump again because he was one of the first in the round to jump and afraid he might not advance if another competitor jumped farther.
Thompson’s 46-10 jump was a sixth-place finish and it was exactly good enough to be reach the qualifying standard.
He will make qualifying jumps on Friday and will hope to be among the top 12 qualifiers in both events to compete for a state title on Saturday. He is ranked 26th best in the long jump and 18th best in the triple jump.
“I wonder where we would be if I had two years with him,” Luna said. “But that’s water under the bridge. He’s an impressive jumper. He has very good technique and God’s gift of spring and he has not even lifted weights.”
Thompson said his love for the triple jump is quickly being supplanted by the long jump.
“It will be an uphill battle, but I like our position,” Luna said. “A lot of people are underestimating what he has done, thinking he’s tapped out. We’re not even close to that. Everyone has had a full season and we’ve barely had half a season.”
Ten other San Gabriel Valley athletes will compete at Clovis’ Buchanan Memorial Stadium. Field events begin at 3 p.m. on Friday and running events at 4 p.m. There will be qualifying for every event except the 3,200.