Leap year: Surprise finish in long jump spurs Palisade’s Shafer

Palisade’s Olevia Shafer wasn’t one of the top long jumpers in the state going in to last year’s state championships. After a third-place finish, Shafer enters her senior year as one of the favorites.

Palisade High School’s Olevia Shafer was an afterthought in the long jump during the 2010 Class 4A state track meet.

Shafer had the 20th best qualifying jump, and was only competing because two other qualifiers dropped out before the meet, bumping her into the 18th and final qualifying spot.

Although Shafer wasn’t given much of a chance, she left her mark with a jump of 16 feet, 11 inches — good enough for third place.

“Freshman and sophomore year, I didn’t jump. Last year, I jumped once and got ranked,” Shafer said. “It was one of those things where it was like ‘You did all right, but we are going to put you in other stuff.’

“But by the end of the year I was still ranked so after not doing it all year I went out and got third.”

Shafer was known more as a triple jumper, having qualified as a sophomore in the event. Shafer qualified again in the triple jump as a junior, finishing ninth, but was also a member of all four of the Bulldogs’ relay teams. Palisade track coach Tim Reetz took Shafer off of a couple of the relays to free up room for other athletes.

“We messed with the relays and I wanted her to long jump at state,” Reetz said. “She entered it seeded last and her first attempt she popped off one of the best jumps and was actually leading the state until the last two jumpers.”

Despite being seeded last heading into the event, Shafer’s confidence helped her place. Shafer’s tenacity came from a shaky state performance as a sophomore where she finished last in the triple jump. “It was an individual event and I think the pressure of being (at state) really got to me,” Shafer said. “I cracked, and didn’t do well.

“But last year I was definitely ready and I wanted to go out and prove something for Palisade.”

This season, Shafer is back as a triple jumper, but has put a lot more focus on the long jump — going to a track camp at the University of Illinois this past summer.

“It’s going to be great,” Shafer said. “I’m excited to come back after last year and see what happens.”

Shafer has an ideal build for a long jumper at 5-9, but admitted she doesn’t have the best vertical so she relies more on her speed.

“I honestly don’t have much hops so sprinting is big for me,” Shafer said. “I have to get to the board and really push off because once you are in the air, it’s a freefall and anything can happen.”

Reetz has high expectation for Shafer in every event she’s competing in.

“She’s really athletic and has big strong legs,” Reetz said. “If you’re all-state as a junior, winning state as a senior has to be a goal. She’s on a couple of returning relays, triple jump and long jump, so she’ll have four solid events.”

Shafer and the rest of the Palisade track team have its first action of the season Saturday in the Mickey Dunn Invitational at Stocker Stadium.

“The first couple meets are almost training meets,” Reetz said. “We want to see where everyone is, and figuring out what the kids best events are.”


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