LAKEWOOD — Bernard McDondle lifted his head ever so slightly, displaying a face full of concentration, as he peeked down the runway. Then he took off, charging full speed toward the long-jump pit. His jump, at least his second one in the final round May 16, was several inches behind the line.
That cost McDondle precious length, but it didn't matter. He'd already done his damage in the preliminary rounds at the 5A boys state track & field championships at Jefferson County Stadium.
It was his second jump of the day — a leap of 22 feet, 7 inches — that proved to be the measuring stick that no one was able to top. That jump held up through the finals to give the Columbine junior a state championship. He beat out Highlands Ranch's Connor Turnage by 4 inches.
“It started to hit me that I could possibly win. So I started to take it serious. Once I took it serious, you saw what happened,” McDondle said.
McDondle, already a prolific athlete on the football field, now has stamped his mark on the track. But that's no surprise to those who know him.
“This is probably one of the most talented young men that I've had a chance to work with, by far. He brought in. Bernard brought in this year. I couldn't be more proud of him,” Columbine track and field jumping coach Scott Thomas said.
“And the beauty is he's only a junior. There's a lot more left he has in the tank.”
McDondle's first jump of the afternoon wasn't shabby, going 20-10¾, but he knew that it wouldn't be enough for him to win. He needed a little more. He got that on second lap down the runway.
“My first one, I didn't do so well. I knew I had to get myself up into the loop because these are some big jumpers. I had to get up to the board and get there as soon as possible and give it my all, and I got it,” McDondle said.
None of his other jumps came even close to his winning mark. He hit 19-9 to end the preliminaries and 18-8½ in the finals. He fouled twice in the final round, but it didn't matter. Nobody was going to catch him.
While Turnage took second, it was Cherokee Trail's Devin Arnold that had McDondle the most concerned. But Arnold managed only a 22-2½ to finish third.
Thomas never doubted that McDondle could pull this off, even if McDondle himself had doubts. But once he finally started to believe, there was no holding him back, Thomas said.
“I saw it probably about midway through the season. He was buying in. It just clicked. He was like, 'Wait, I can do this. I know I can do this. I know that I have the potential. Not only can I be competitive, I can win,' ” Thomas said.
It was at the Cherry Creek Invitational that McDondle jumped 22-9½, just a half-inch shy of Columbine's school record. From then on, he was on a mission. On May 16, he completed that mission with a state title.