Carson Gross of Spruce Mountain high jumps during the Mountain Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships at Lisbon High School last week. Gross won the event with a jump of 6 feet, 2 inches. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

A buzz grew around the Wiscasset High School track on April 29 as Carson Gross kept increasing his heights in the high jump area.

Soon, the Spruce Mountain senior had a crowd around him and multiple events paused as he went from 6 feet, to a new personal best of 6 feet, 1 inch.

Then, 6-2. And 6-3 after that, followed by a clearance of 6-4.

The cheers grew louder and the adrenaline coursed through Gross’ veins more intensely. The track meet basically came to a halt as Gross prepared for his jump with the bar at 6-5, a Spruce Mountain record.

No Phoenix athlete had reached the height before, and especially not in their first-ever track meet as Gross had.

“On that day, nothing was in my head,” Gross said. “It was blank and I just focused on jumping. I didn’t even focus on the height of the bar or anything. Prior to that, my highest clearance was 6 feet, and I had only gotten my hips over 6-1.”

“I clear 6-1, and it feels even better. We go up to 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and finally 6-5. I was dumbfounded. There was so much adrenaline, everyone stopped their events and were gathered around the high jump. They were just watching me jump. It felt like a movie, if we’re being honest.”

Gross wrapped his torso, hips then legs up-and-over the 6-5 bar and broke the school record. He had always had hops and showed them off in basketball, which was, before this, his senior year, all he played. Gross started to think about high jump and knew he could do some damage in the event.

“I’ve always had a natural ability to jump and I’ve played basketball since fourth grade,” Gross said. “I just thought about high jump and said, ‘I might as well try it.’ So, it happened. I guess that’s just one of those things you never think you’re going to do, try it once and find out you’re great at it.”

It’s rare that a talent like Gross falls into your lap so late in their high school career, but coach Jay Lindsey has had fun coaching it.

“I don’t know if I mentioned it or some of the other kids said, ‘Carson, you can jump. You should do high jump,’” Lindsey said. “I think some of his buddies were doing it and his friends said to come jump.

“What you see is pure talent. He’s amazing.”

While Lindsey and first-year assistant coach Nathan Dana have guided Gross in the right direction, both agreed that Gross has done a lot on his own. Lindsey did have to tell Gross to pause his basketball playing for a little while during the season.

“He’s pretty much done everything we’ve asked him,” Lindsey said. “Once he learned he had some talent jumping I told him he had to stop basketball for a little bit because he could not afford to sprain his ankle. He was doing a dunk contest and it was like, ‘You’ve gotta stop for a couple days.’”

Hall-Dale senior Ashtyn Abbott had cleared 6-5 a few days before Gross did at Wiscasset, and the pair finally faced off at the Mountain Valley Conference championship last week. Gross had just watched a video of Abbott’s 6-5 jump before his first meet, and that gave him motivation.

Last Thursday at Lisbon High School, Gross and Abbott went head-to-head for the MVC title. Both jumped 6-2, but Gross won the conference title because he reached that height in less attempts than Abbott.

Carson Gross of Spruce Mountain gets a hug from Ashtyn Abbott of Hall-Dale after Gross won the high jump with a jump of 6 feet, 2 inches during the Mountain Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships at Lisbon High School on May 23. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“My mentality for that was the same as Wiscasset,” Gross said. “Focus on the jumps and don’t worry about the height of the bar, and to maintain my form and bank on him having a bad day.”

Gross’ coaches have been trying to take pressure off of him ever since the Wiscasset meet, and Thursday was no different.

“Right now, I think he’s playing a little bit of head games with himself after that first meet, and I think that psychs him out a little bit, whereas the first time, not knowing what he could do, he naturally flew through it,” Dana said.

“His height is unknown, and I tease him about 7 feet,” Lindsey said. “You can do 7 feet, just jump. I wasn’t looking to put any pressure on him, just do what you do. I told him once or twice, ‘Just have fun … smile.’ He was trying to control it but I said it was OK and that he deserved it. I don’t know if you saw him on the podium but he was about to bust out of his skin.”

Gross and Abbott will have one more showdown at the Class C state meet at Mt. Blue on Saturday.

Next year, Gross is planning to attend the University of Southern Maine to study accounting and finance.

It just so happens that the USM track and field coaches became interested in Gross after his record-breaking performance and offered him a spot on the team.

“I have been talking to the USM track coach and they came to watch me at the Oxford Hills meet and they basically told me that I have a spot already there,” Gross said. “Now I have this offer from the college I was going to go to anyway. It’s indescribable.”

The outdoor track season started with Gross jumping 6-5 right out of the gates. Now, Lindsey believes the sky is the limit.

“He wants to do well,” Lindsey said. “He puts the effort in, and it’s only a matter of time before he does 7 feet. He’ll be in the Olympics.”

Carson Gross of Spruce Mountain high jumps during the Mountain Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships at Lisbon High School on May 23. Gross won the event with a jump of 6 feet, 2 inches. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

 


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