Many of Nigel Katende’s best jumps of the 2020 high school indoor track season happened in practice.

Lewiston’s Nigel Katende jumps during the triple jump at the Class A state meet in February. The sophomore won the state title with a jump of 44 feet, 1 1/4 inches. Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

The Lewiston sophomore won a Class A state championship and reached the podium at the New England championships in the triple jump, finished third in the state in the long jump, and shattered personal and school records along the way. His outstanding performance has earned him the Sun Journal’s All-Region Boys Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Katende and first-year Lewiston coach Steve Virgilio expected the end-of-season excellence, but didn’t take it for granted. Rarely challenged by other jumpers during the regular season, Katende pushed himself relentlessly to improve in practice, not only perfecting his form but honing his mental approach to feel as comfortable as possible in the moment when his performance counted most.

“I get all of my butterflies out at practice,” Katende said.

Katende floated like a butterfly in the triple and long jumps at the state meet, winning the former with his final jump of 44 feet, 1.25 inches, and finishing third in the latter with a leap of 21-06.75.

His final triple jump was as clutch as it gets in track and  field. He set PRs with his first two jumps but still trailed Cheverus sophomore Frank Morang in the final round. With his third attempt, he edged Morang by a quarter-of-an-inch.

He continued to save his best for last at New Englands, vaulting into the finals of the long jump with his final attempt, then landing a spot on the podium with his last leap in the finals, matching his top jump at states at 21-06.75, also a personal best, to finish sixth and become one of the few Maine athletes to attain all-New England status.

Katende never let the pressure get to him, drawing upon his experience as a Junior Olympian (he finished seventh in the triple jump at the 2019 USATF Junior Olympic Championships) to stay focused on the moment.

“It definitely felt like when I went to the Junior Olympics, so I was comfortable with the environment and the competition,” Katende said. “I just knew if I did my best I would probably would place.”

Katende wasn’t the only one feeling relaxed in the big moments. Virgilio, a Cheverus graduate and New England collegiate decathlon champion at Holy Cross, said he completely trusts Katende on the runway and calls him a “kinesthetic genius of horizonal jumps.” He would know, having coached athletes at Cheverus and Portland high schools and St. Joseph’s College to state and national titles.

“He knows what to do and how to do it and he can make adjustments in the moment,” Virgilio said. “He can take what you have to offer and what he has to offer and put it together to hit the board perfectly.”

He hits the board with uncommon consistency, somewhere between 95 and 99 percent, Virgilio said. Katende chalks that up to better mechanics.

“I’ve improved a lot from my freshman year to my sophomore year, especially with my form. And it’s been showing,” he said.

“(Virgilio) makes complicated things easy to understand,” Katende said. “He’s really helped me with making sure I pay attention to all of the little things.”

Katende credits Virigilio and Lewiston assistant coach Carolyn Court not only for their coaching but their willingness to go above and beyond, noting that they would often stay late after practice to work with him if school or work obligations cut into his session.

“I think the thing I’ll look back on about this season with the most pride is how much my coaches would put in the time would put into working with me,” he said. “Knowing they are dedicated to me and my future in track and field really drives me to improve.”

Virgilio, who hopes there is a spring track season to continue working with Katende, said the pleasure is all his.

“He’s a great competitor,” Virgilio said. “It’s fun to work with someone like him because you know he’s always going to bring his best.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: