Osbourn Park's Sydney Banks continued a phenomenal sophomore season on Friday afternoon with a leap for the record books. On her last high jump attempt at 5-10, Banks cleared the bar and put the exclamation point on a performance that earned her a first state title, a Virginia 6A state meet record and #3 VA clearance of all-time.
Banks leap also gave her a share of the current US HS indoor #1 mark (with Jelena Rowe of Illinois' Bloom Township HS) and tied the Boo Williams facility record, which she now shares with Brianna Hayes of Mataoca.
Coupled with her win at last year's outdoor 6A high jump, Banks will soon be stepping out of the shadow of anonymity, as a wave of college offers start finding their way in her direction.
To one's surprise, the wave of nerves may have hit her most after the third round.
"I tend to build a mental block when the bar gets higher than me," said the 5-foot-5 Banks. Like five of the six competitors remaining in Round 4, she missed her first attempt at 5-6, leaving McLean's super sophomore JaneAnne Tvedt as the sole survivor of the first series at the new height.
Banks made it over the bar the second time, and was soon followed by teammate Gabrielle Hayes and Grassfield's Lauryn Ghee, whose 5-6 clearance was a personal best.
At 5-8, first Tvedt, then Ghee, and finally Hayes missed their first attempt. As if ice had invaded her veins, Banks coolly made her approach run and sailed over the bar.
She would be the only athlete to clear, as Tvedt, Ghee and Hayes missed their final two attempts.
Now alone as the winner and last jumper, Banks had the bar raised to 5-10. Her first attempt wasn't close. However, she cleared the bar on her second try, but hit it with her right calf on the way down, just knocking the pole off its standards.
Banks left no doubt on the third attempt, sailing over the bar and touching nothing but air on her way down to the mat. In fact, it was only the force of her jumping up and down on the mat three times that caused the slightest shimmer of the apparatus.
After jumping off the mat, Banks ran halfway across the approach area to hug Hayes, her senior teammate. Along with junior Zaria Barnes, the trio of jumpers has racked up multiple points for Coach Mike Feldman's Yellow Jackets.
"And we have a fourth jumper who has cleared five feet," added Feldman, pleased with the possibilities.
Banks started out as a five-foot jumper when she took up the sport in seventh grade. Perhaps buoyed by an older sister who now competes in the heptathlon for Wake Forest, the younger Banks was a natural. Working with Osbourn Park field coaches Bruce Bonarth and Sean Hill, she cleared 5-6 last indoor season, and raised the bar to 5-8 on three separate occasions last spring, including her state outdoor win at Todd Stadium.
However, the last hurdle to conquer may have been her own, the one that rose in her mind as the bar got higher. There was a watershed moment this season.
"It was probably her meet at the Armory," said Feldman, referring to the Marine Corps Holiday Classic at New York's famed Armory track.
Banks wholeheartedly agrees. "After I cleared 5-9 there (a new best and #5 US), I started to believe that I could get to six feet."
She got an inch closer on Friday. "I couldn't believe... I thought I hit it," said Banks of her winning jump. With Nationals and an entire outdoor season to go, a six-foot high jump looks entirely possible.
Why? Feldman had the last word. "She's got the eye of the tiger."