Kennedy high jump duo Thobourne, Johnson cap careers with medals by Zach Miller of The Record
COLUMBUS — Jason Thobourne leaned back, readying for one last high jump attempt at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, then stopped and jogged over to his teammate, Ronniel Johnson, instead.
Thobourne stood one triumphant leap away from tying the Kennedy school record of 6 feet, 10 inches on Saturday, the same record he tied last week as he won the Group 4 meet. Clearing that height would have given him another chance to break that record and a chance to win a meet of champions title.
Before he took that shot, though, he stopped to talk to Johnson, the teammate who has pushed him since the day he started high jump last year. The two have pushed each other higher and higher – quite literally – for the past two years with moments like these. Johnson had already secured a seventh-place medal, and this next jump determined whether Thobourne would place first or second.
Johnson held up his phone playing a recording of Thobourne’s last jump. Coach Joy Martinez and Johnson watched the tape with Thobourne, reminding his to lift his knees a little higher this time. After all, his body cleared the height last time, but his legs knocked the bar over.
“He was getting a little anxious,” Martinez said. “We were telling him to just ride it out like he usually does and take your time. He was over the height, he just wasn’t bringing his knees up.”
So back Johnson went to the spot he’d been in a minute earlier, leaning back again. This time he took off with a slow, high-stepping jog toward the bar and leaped over it with his foot clipping the bar. It shook for a second, then fell. A couple minutes later, Freehold Township’s Stephen Staklinski cleared that same bar without issue, leaving Thobourne in second place.
“It’s a little disappointing but for my second year, I can’t be mad,” Thobourne said afterwards. ““I still have a lot of time to get better. When I get to college, I’ll be good. The coaches will help me, maybe I’ll even be able to jump 7-4. I just want to keep getting better and better.”
That’s the attitude Thobourne and Johnson have shared for years, which led them to these career-capping medals on a beautiful June day: always looking to get better. Johnson will attend Monroe College, Thobourne is undecided.
“I’m very proud of them,” Martinez said. “(I’m going to remember) their heart. They did what they had to do for the team, they did what they had to do for themselves. They were team players, I had no problem with them. Anything we needed them to do, they did it. They held the team down.”
She’ll miss their attitude – and their team points – next season, but she’s excited to follow their careers.
“All the time on Facebook, I’m like, ‘Where are you? What are you doing? Send me some pictures. I do that with all the kids,” Martinez said, laughing. “They’re like my babies. These two are my twins, double trouble.”