Nyagoa Bayak was in the sixth grade, a distance runner and shot putter for her school’s track team, when her coach suggested she try the high jump.

It wasn’t a surprising request because, said Bayak, “in middle school track, you do everything.”

From that experiment, Bayak has flourished.

Now a senior at Westbrook High, Bayak this winter became the first Maine girl to clear 6 feet in the high jump. She did so while winning the Class A state title for the fourth consecutive year. In the following weeks, she won the New England high jump title for the fourth time and placed second at New Balance Nationals.

And her accomplishments are just part of what makes Bayak our choice for Varsity Maine Girls’ Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

“She’s a leader, by example and if I ask her to do anything,” said Angie Lally, the Westbrook coach. “She’s very knowledgeable and she helps everyone on the team.”

Bayak is also passing her knowledge along to the middle school high jumpers. She often attends their practices and works as a high jump official at middle school meets.

“I actually enjoy that,” said Bayak, who has accepted a scholarship to compete for Louisiana State University. “Some of the kids ask me things and I try to help them. It’s something I enjoy.”

Bayak has been a mainstay for the Blue Blazes since her freshman year. She gave up basketball after her sophomore year – she was competing in both sports her first two years – to concentrate on high jumping.

“I know I had to choose one sport eventually,” she said. “And I wanted to pursue academics as well as track, so I had to give up basketball.”

Leaving basketball meant that Bayak could devote all her training to track. In addition to the high jump, she competes in the triple jump, which she won at the indoor state meet for the third consecutive year.

But the high jump consumes most of her energies. “I’m trying to get as good as I can,” she said. “I just keep working at it.”

She said her goal for the outdoor season is to clear 6 feet on a regular basis.

“Consistency is a big factor in high jump,” said Bayak. “If you do it once and never do it again, that’s kind of pointless. So getting 6 feet consistently, and maybe even getting over 6-1, that would be awesome.”

Bayak has been Westbrook’s top scorer in her four years. But Lally said her impact on the team goes further than just points in a meet.

“We count on her points,” said Lally. “But track is very individual and we hope that some of the athletes get motivated by her success and in their own way improve and score points for their team as well.”

Bayak’s success certainly motivates her.

“High jump is a very mental game, you always want more,” she said. “That plays a factor. You keep going after it.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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