By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Last season, admittedly star-struck by the stage and gasping for oxygen at that height, Lane Hawkins was the Marlon Brando of high jumping. He could have been a contender.
Perhaps he wasn’t ready. The state finals is the waterfront of high-rent districts, and the price for success is steep. Hawkins came up short – one of the rare times that phrase can be used with the 6-foot-9 senior – of his goals and finished 20th.
Now the soft-spoken Bedford North Lawrence graduate, already on his way to Purdue Fort Wayne, is ready to make a big leap. He’s definitely a contender, seeded third and shooting for greatness during the IHSAA state finals at Indiana University on Friday afternoon.
Hawkins highlights BNL’s six-man contingent set to compete. The Stars (with Jamey Deckard, Drew Shoufler, Landon Grissom and Wyatt Martin) qualified for the 400-meter relay, and Elijah Grider will race in the 300 low hurdles.
Hawkins already holds the school record at 6-8, which he matched last week in the regional at Bloomington North. If he duplicates that, he would likely finish among the elite and challenge for the state championship. He could be somebody. Just the thought makes him smile.
“It’s very cool to say,” Hawkins said. “You can’t say it without smiling.”
All he needed was a boost of confidence. That bar was an enemy, mocking him when he knocked it off its perch, but his inner doubts made his job even more difficult.
“I’m jumping a lot higher than at the beginning of the year, I guess because I’ve proven to myself I can jump high,” Hawkins said. “I can definitely jump even higher than I am now. Based on the seedings, it’s hard not to have high expectations.”
Hawkins is counting on experience. He struggled with the sights and sounds of the state meet, weighed down by the buzz. But he learned. Instead of a one-way ticket to Palooka-ville, he’s on the road to stardom.
“Last year I was nervous,” he said. “I don’t want to say star-struck, but it was like ‘Wow, I was at the state.’ This year, I’m the kid I was looking at, thinking I want to be like that and jump that high. I guess I’m the kid now I wanted to be last year, a contender for the No.1 spot.”
Pike’s Michael Lawrence and Lawrence Central’s Kaymren Garrett, who both cleared 6-10, are the only seeds above him.
“The thing that helps Lane the most is he was there last year,” BNL coach Brett Deckard said. “I don’t think the big stage will get him this time. It’s a big deal, there’s a lot of commotion and action.
“He’s capable if everything works out right. Going 6-8 would put him up pretty high. It’s not like anyone is out of his league. He’s been jumping well. Any time you can make the podium (for the top 9 in each event) at the state finals, that’s pretty good.”
The other Stars will have to exceed their seeds to make an impact.
BNL’s relay is seeded 26th in 44.08 seconds. They will chase the school record of 42.93, set in 2013.
“They can run as fast as they can and do the best they can,” Deckard said. “Going up there is icing on the cake. We’re at the state finals. Try to run the best time of the year and enjoy it.”
Grider matched Adam Lafferty’s school mark of 40.63 (set during the 1999 regional) last week. He is seeded 24th.
“I think Elijah’s goal is to run faster than last week and break the record,” Deckard said. “That’s a realistic goal.”
Action in the high jump will begin at 3:30 p.m. The 400 relay heats are scheduled for 6:45, and the 300 hurdles will be staged at 7:20.