Jalen Battle has gravitated towards the technical side of track and field. He started doing the high jump in middle school because it "seemed like fun," he said, but the "Fosbury flop" technique used in the sport, with competitors flinging themselves backwards up and over the bar, was tough to get a hold of at first.
And this spring, his junior season at Lambert, Battle started with the triple jump, another event with specialized form: A "hop," a "skip" and finally the "jump" into the sand pit. His technique is still coming along in that event.
"It didn't make much sense to me," Battle said. "So my coach basically just said, 'Jump three times and we'll work on the form later.'"
Battle has the natural hops to be able to overcome things like that, and his results from this spring showed him to be one of the top jumpers in the state. He finished third at the Class 7A state meet in the high jump, at 6 feet, 4 inches, and 15th in the triple jump at 41 feet, 3.75 inches. Battle's triple jump from the meet before of 44 feet, 1 inch would have tied him for seventh in the state, and he also set a school record in the high jump back at the Region 5-7A championship meet, clearing 6 feet, 6 inches.
"I felt good about it," Battle said of his spring season. "I felt like I improved in a lot of areas that I did."
Battle's major breakthrough in the high jump came his sophomore year, when he started putting more effort in training for track and field, including going to workouts at Redline Athletics. His top mark as a freshman was 6 feet, but he had cleared 6-4 by sectionals as a sophomore and wound up finishing sixth in Class 7A with a clearance of 6-2.
This has also coincided with a change in Battle's priorities as an athlete. He was a basketball player before he was a track athlete, and his emphasis was still solidly on the hardwood when he entered high school.
"I did more basketball practices, more basketball workouts than (track) workouts, by a lot," Battle said.
And basketball has still been a part of Battle's sports path since then, and he was on Lambert's varsity squad as a shooting guard this past season. But how he prioritizes two sports has flipped since he started high school: He's now putting his main focus on track, for the simple reason that he's better at it.
Battle already has concrete goals set for his senior year. He wants to clear 6-10 in the high jump and improve in the triple jump and the 400 meters, his main running event. He might other events as well.
But one thing has been decided for sure: Battle is a track athlete first. It isn't that he's completely disenchanted with basketball, but there's something to clearing the bar – literally.
"I would say it's more satisfying to jump over a height and clear it, something that I've been working on for the entire summer," Battle said. "...I'd say that's a lot more satisfying than getting a rebound or scoring a three."