AUBURN – Triple jump is track and field’s event for power hitters.
You might swing and miss — or foul, as the case may be — all day long. But catch one fastball in your wheelhouse with the bases loaded and the game on the line, and that’s all anyone will remember.
Ashten Hackett of Edward Little High School was the one leaving the yard at this year’s Class A indoor state championships. The senior connected with 35 feet on the nose, edging Emilia Scheemaker of Scarborough for her first state title.
“What’s really significant is she faulted five jumps out of six,” said EL coach Rebecca Hefty. “I always say it only takes one, but I didn’t really mean that. She’s only jumped 35 feet two times in her life, so to take it one jump out of six and win it? It’s incredible.”
Hackett applied that responsiveness to opportunity’s knock in her career as a whole. As a junior, she was a silver medalist in both the indoor and outdoor competitions, trailing only teammate Emily Dodge.
In honor of that persistence and flair for the dramatic, Hackett also succeeds Dodge as the Sun Journal’s girls’ indoor track all-area athlete of the year.
“Winning a state championship was definitely on my mind, but I had to not think about that,’ Hackett said. “Like my coaches always say, seeds don’t matter.”
Hackett was Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference champion in triple jump, 55-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash.
At states, she complemented her triple jump title with a fourth-place finish in the hurdles that saw her eclipse the elusive nine-second barrier.
“The whole season was frustrating not getting under nine seconds, but it finally came together at the state meet,” Hackett said.
Triple jump was nearly a personal best, too. The Presidents’ Day showcase at the University of Southern Maine represented only the second time in Hackett’s career she had covered 35 feet.
Hackett’s success in the technical event continued a proud Red Eddies tradition. She led a parade of EL senior point-scorers in the triple jump that included Chyla Hoitt (fourth), Katherine Harmon (fifth) and Jessie Nyholm (sixth).
“We always say you need depth, and I bet if you did your homework you wouldn’t find too many schools that ever scored four of the top seven,” Hefty said. “I know it’s never happened in our program.”
Hackett’s emergence as the leader of that group is a testament to the value of waiting one’s turn.
“Emily Dodge and I were really close. She was a great triple jumper and a great hurdler. She taught me a lot,“ Hackett said. “It’s a lot of technique, like at practice doing things over and over until we get it. A lot of repetition. On competition day, it’s all mental. You just need to know it can happen. You need to the confidence that you can just do it.”
There also were physical obstacles to overcome.
Track time is limited to occasional workouts at Bates College and meets at either Bowdoin or Colby during the indoor season.
Many practices take place in school hallways or wherever there is space. The less forgiving footing can be tough on runners and hurdlers. Hackett fought through shin splints this winter.
But that was nothing compared to the end of her junior outdoor campaign.
“I got a stress fracture in my foot, but I still competed. I kind of held off telling my parents,” Hackett said.
And her coach.
“She tripled, ran 4×100, 300 hurdles and 100 hurdles for KVACs, states and New Englands, which are three back-to-back meets, and I didn’t even know about it until I accidentally saw a picture on Facebook where she was wearing a boot. I‘m thinking, ‘What the hell is this?’ That just shows you the strength and what the kid has,” said Hefty. “We’re a lot more cautious now, though. I was like, ‘Honey, that is not OK.’ But she still performed well.”
Hackett will run both hurdle events and the 4×100 relay while going for the triple jump sweep this spring. Hefty believes she is capable of a hurdle championship, as well.
Given Hackett’s penchant for saving the best for last, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
“I try to make the most of every meet,” Hackett said.
Felicia Binette, Edward Little
Maame Bonsu, Lewiston
Elizabeth Dixon, Lewiston
Ashten Hackett, Edward Little
Katherien Harmon, Edward Little
Chyla Hoitt, Edward Little
Melody Lam, Mt. Blue
Kendra Lobley, Poland
Jessica Mitaly, Gray-New Gloucester
Jessie Nyholm, Edward Little
Amanda Peterson, Gray-New Gloucester
Kristen Therrien, Lewiston
Emma Turton, Poland