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Mount Vernon's Hastings jumps to national title

Jesse Hastings, 12, of Mount Vernon, prepares to long jump Thursday evening in Mount Vernon. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

MOUNT VERNON -- If Jesse Hastings learned anything from competing in the Hershey's Track and Field Games North American Final, it was to have confidence in his abilities.

The 12-year-old went into the practice day with a stomach full of butterflies but was able to overcome those emotions when it counted.

"If I doubt myself, the worst is going to happen," he said. "If I don't doubt myself, the best could happen for me."

Hastings, who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Mount Vernon, was named champion of the 11-12 boys long jump event Saturday in Hershey, Pa. The long jump in the Hershey's competition is standing, which differs from the high school field event where athletes sprint down a runway and jump into the sand pit.

"I was really nervous and I didn't want to show my ability in front of everybody on the practice day," Hastings said. "I knew what I was able to do, but I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it the competition day. I had butterflies in my stomach. I don't know who wouldn't have butterflies at that point."

Hastings mustered up a jump of 8 feet, 3.5 inches on his first attempt. He improved on his jumps through the competition and recorded his best jump of 8-5.5 in his third and final attempt.

The second-place finisher, Mykal Porter, recorded a distance of 8-2.

"I was surprised that I won," Hastings said. "I had a feeling, though, after I saw everyone else jump."

Hastings said he practiced every night leading up to the national meet and attempted at least 10 jumps per night. He added his longest jump in practice was 9 feet.

Dacey Rihanek, 12, of Plankinton, also competed at the North American Final where she finished second in the 11-12 girls 400-meter dash. She finished with a time of 1 minute, 3.45 seconds.

Amara OnyeuKwu was the winner after recording a time of 1:00.47. Rihanek beat out Brianna Brown, who took third, by .16 seconds.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.