MILESPLIT ALL-CA ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
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One in a series of articles profiling 2022 track and field athletes of the year by event grouping as selected by MileSplitCA editors.
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Before Martin Luther King High's Alyssa Hope took one attempt to start the season, she set her goals at 19 feet in the long jump and 38 feet in the triple jump. Reasonable for a junior whose previous bests were 18-feet and 37-2.
One invitational into the season, she revised everything.
"After jumping 18 feet at Rancho Bernardo (Bronco Invitational), I changed my goals to 20 and 40 feet," said Hope. "The reason was I had a tiny foul at close to 19 feet, so I knew I could do it."
Indeed she did, having a magic year where she captured the triple jump title at the CIF-State Championships with a wind-aided 40-2.75 and placed second in the long jump at 20-4.
The long jump was a PR and the 40-footer was her fifth hop-step-and jump beyond her revised goal, topped by a state-leading 41-3 in a dual meet against Corona Santiago.
As the MileSplitCA Girls Jumper of the Year, Alyssa Hope has senior targets of a high-21-footer in the long jump and 43-feet in the triple. Not-so-modest goals considering only two girls in state history have achieved that double -- Juliana Yendork (1990-91), and Tara Davis (2017).
Rare, yes, but certainly achievable if the improvement she displayed in 2022 is any indication.
It was one of those years where it seemed she improved almost every week, no matter the event.
"Whether I liked the long or triple best depended on the day," said Hope, 16. "The triple jump and high jump (where she cleared 5-3 at Bronco) were more stressful because they require good technique. I always like the long jump because you just run and jump. Whenever I started thinking about what I needed to do, I usually did terrible."
Head coach Mathew Vasel said what made Hope become the best in the state was how she approached each event.
"She's a competitor, she loves competition," said Vasel. "After she lost the long jump at State, that just sparked her for the triple jump."
"I jumped 20-4 and she (Clovis junior Sydnie Vanek) jumped four inches better than me (20-8.50) on her final jump," said Hope. "Then I started thinking that I ended my year in the 20s and I would have been happy to finish sixth if it was a 20-footer.
"But it also made me more determined for the triple jump. I thought 'I have to win something,' so I was ready for the triple jump."
Any one of her legal triple jumps could have won as she posted an unbeatable wind-aided series of 40-1, 39-10, 39-6.50, foul, 40-2.75, and 40-2.25.
Making it even more amazing, just that morning she had tinkered with her step. After she and jump coach John Byrd discussed it, she decided to see how it would work -- in the State Finals.
"We both agreed that I looked more comfortable," said Hope, who said she never really knows how she does upon landing and listened to announcer Tim O'Rourke to determine how far she'd jumped.
"When I land, I look for Coach Byrd first because I never think I did very well. When I went 19-5.50 (wind-legal) at Trabuco, I was really surprised. I remember being disappointed placing fifth at Mt. SAC (19-3.50) but Coach Byrd reminded me I was only two inches off my PR and that the other girls just had a better day."
Hope said she really enjoyed the State Meet but unlike many of the jumpers, she prefers to just go and see what happens instead of getting the crowd behind her by clapping.
"I hate when people clap," she admitted. "I remember one time they did it for me and it broke my concentration so much I almost broke my foot. I block out the crowd. But the big crowd was nice."
Sort of. Winning the triple jump and placing second in the long jump made her again face the inevitable victory stand ceremony.
Some athletes thrive on the attention, waving their hands and celebrating. Not Hope.
"I really don't know how to deal with attention," said Hope. "I just wanted to have the victory stand ceremony end so I could get down. I appreciated it, though."
One thing she looks forward to is competing with and against her twin sister, Coryssa, who suffered a foot stress fracture before the 2022 season.
When both of the girls attended a summer camp before their freshman year at MLK, Vasel saw potential, but nothing like what Alyssa Hope has accomplished.
"They were sprinters," he recalled. "When I saw her jump, she showed flashes, glimpses, of how good she could become. This level of success, though, was a surprise. This season was like a roller coaster ride that only got better and better."
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Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit
Photos by Daniel Hernandez.