Benefield: High jumper elevating his performance at SRJC
Waisea Jikoiono doesn’t look the part.
“He’s built like a football player,” Santa Rosa Junior College track and field coach David Wellman said.
Jikoiono’s teammates call him “Big Guy.”
“Skinny and tall, that’s the typical jumper look,” said Jikoiono, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds. “I’m a little bit more bulky. I’m a little shorter. It’s how us are islanders are built, short and stocky.”
Short, stocky, muscular, football build — whatever it is, Jikoiono has a gift for making that body soar.
The SRJC freshman out of Montgomery High has already hit the qualifying mark for the state meet in the high jump and at this early point in the season holds the top mark in California at 6 feet, 7.5 inches. His personal best coming into the season had been 6 feet, 5 inches.
“To jump so much higher than his PR is pretty great for this point in the season,” Wellman said.
And guesses are that he’s only going to go higher. At the Jack Albiani Invitational at Modesto Junior College on Friday, Jikoiono hopes to qualify for the Stanford Invitational March 29-30.
“I have never seen anyone so aware of how to contort his body to get over the bar,” Wellman said.
It might be in his genes — his mom, Tara, was a top-ranked high jumper as a high schooler in Fiji. Despite that, Jikoiono didn’t give the event a try until he was a freshman in high school in Fiji.
“I was a little late to it. A lot of my competitors had been doing it for a while,” he said.
But it was love at first leap.
“It was the one thing I was actually OK at,” he said. “I tried playing rugby, I tried sprinting, I tried basketball.”
Nothing stuck. Until the high jump.
“It was so much fun for me that I like putting in work for it,” he said. “Ever since I started, I feel like I have been very committed to high jump. At my old school, I asked my track and field coach put the high jump bar and mat in the gym and every lunch I’d just be in there jumping.”
When he moved to California and enrolled at Montgomery in his sophomore year, he again focused on his jumps. As a senior, Jikoiono posted the top jump in the Redwood Empire, just besting teammate (and now fellow Bear Cub) Jacob Williams with a leap of 6 feet, 5 inches.
But that one-two punch of Jikoiono and Williams has helped Jikoiono hone his game, he said.
“We are really close at practice. Ever since Montgomery we have always been like the dynamic duo,” he said. “We have always pushed each other ever since junior year. We are best friends and rivals at the same time.
“I found that it helped me a lot,” he said of Williams’ steady competition.
But at the same time, high jumping can be somewhat solitary, he said.
“High jumping is a sport where you are sort of playing against yourself,” he said. “I try to jump my own jump and not worry about anyone else.