By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
What started as an experiment for Hunter Yoder has turned into something spectacular.
And it has placed him right where he belongs.
The Crestwood High School senior spent his eighth grade track and field season rotating between a variety of events to find his best fit.
Already a mainstay in the throws, Yoder was placed in sprints, relays and middle-distance events.
One meet at Woodridge, Yoder’s eighth-grade coaches entered him into he high jump and made a comment to Yoder’s father, jokingly, “Don’t worry, he won’t be in this event for long.”
Yoder turned that comment false when he cleared 5-foot-6 and won the meet against tough competition.
“It just kinda of happened,” Yoder remembered about his win.
Yoder largely relied on his natural athletic ability then, but he has now perfected his fundamentals and technique to become one of the premier jumpers in the county.
His current personal best is 6-foot-2, which came during a championship effort at the John Kudley Aurora Invitational earlier this season.
Yoder’s jumping success is the culmination of a four-year process that began with a lost season his freshman year because of COVID.
The multi-sport standout then made the decision to spend this past winter training for the season at the SPIRE Institute instead of playing basketball, with a hope that it would prepare him for a spring that not only finishes in Columbus, but on the podium.
The 6-foot-4 senior has made tremendous strides, which coach Josh Jakacki is proud of, but there is also still work waiting for Yoder to reach that goal.
“We are really excited for Hunter’s future weeks, but we are also already proud of what he has accomplished to this point,” Jakacki said. “He has a lot of passion for the event, and I think that has separated him from a lot of our jumpers we have had here in the past. His big goal is to get to state, and he probably needs a couple more inches, if not more, to make that happen. We are going to work with him to try to make it happen.”
Yoder’s growth in the event has materialized through building strength, finding consistency in his approach and eliminating his habit of sitting over the bar.
Repetitious workouts, week after week, helped deliver the results.
His approach now features three shuffles that lead into a running eight steps, setting his rhythm and while he used to try to muscle himself over the bar, he now arches more effortlessly to clear with his back curved and shoulders pulled back.
“I was dedicated to the hard work and it feels good to get into the grind like that,” said Yoder, who has played football for 13 years and said he used his familiarity with his gridiron workouts and two-a-days to channel the discipline necessary to hyper-focus on his jumps workouts. “In football, you can train up to four months before you even play a game. It is constant practice and it takes discipline so that is something I feel comfortable with.”
Jakacki has noticed Yoder’s commitment.
“I think the most important part of Hunter’s development is that he has been fully vested in everything,” the Red Devils’ coach said. “He had already shown true promise, but he worked to find good balance and improve his technique, which has allowed him to grow into the best high-jumper that can be.”
It has allowed Yoder to develop into one of the Red Devils’ most dynamic scorers, with the 6-foot-4 senior oftentimes accounting for 15 points in duals and invitiationals — described by Jakacki as “quite impressive.”
Just like Yoder’s story from experimental to elite jumper.