China Reed was a quarter of an inch from qualifying for the Class 4A State Meet in the triple jump last year.
She was a quarter inch away. That's an orange slice. That's a pencil grip away, for the visual people out there. She was literally right there at the 4A-Region 3 meet last year.
Let's step away from the heartbreak for a little bit, and take a look at the whole sphere of what got Reed to this point. The senior didn't jump for Palm Beach Gardens High until her junior year, a while after she tore her meniscus and was sidelined in trying to strengthen her legs to get back out on the track.
Enter Fast Lane Track Club Head Coach Derek Walker, also the jumps coach at Nova Southeastern University. Reed's mother sought out Walker to help with the re-strengthening process through Reed's freshman and sophomore year after surgery, and the results came to fruition this past year.
"China is a very hard worker. She trained six days a week including four days a week in the gym, that's a lot of dedication," Walker said. "She was really struggling in the long jump so I had suggested for her to triple jump and she did well."
Reed may have been struggling in the long jump previously, but she jumped 18-5 at the USATF Indoor Hoover Alumni Invitational in Birmingham, putting her just behind Lakewood Ranch's Sophia Falco at 18-6.25. Her outdoor PR sits at 17-5.75.
She was third at the 4A-District 10 meet in the triple jump with a 34-9.25, but that wasn't the end for her. The next week, she shattered that mark with a 36-3.50 at the regional meet. It still wasn't enough. That's where the quarter of an inch came into play.
"It was so heartbreaking, I cried my eyes out for like two days straight. It was still good because I had only been practicing triple jump in those two weeks and I had just become a natural at it. I ended up setting the school record with that jump at regionals," Reed said.
The quarter of an inch wasn't totally bad, not training with Palm Beach Gardens gave her an opportunity to instead train more with Walker and Fast Lane, in which Reed feels she's really benefited from over the years. "It's one big family there. Coach Walker pushes me and us so hard that even on your worst day he's going to get you to finish the workout. It's been cool to travel to many different places that I've never been before, it's just been a great experience."
One of those new places will be to the New Balance Nationals in New York in March, where Reed will compete in the triple jump. Based on last year's results, her outdoor PR of 37-5 would put her third in the competition. Not bad for someone who just picked up the event recently. Reed currently holds two verbal offers from Nova Southeastern and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where they both want her to long and triple jump.
"We're still waiting on that one big jump that gives her a big scholarship from a big school for all of her hard work," Walker said.
That big jump could come in New York, where Reed is excited to perform.
"I'm just really hoping to have a good day there. There's a bunch of college coaches there. I'm just afraid really of not doing good, of not getting it done when I need to. I want to PR there, I want to do my absolute best," Reed said.
She'll have two months to prepare in the triple, including a couple of meets with Palm Beach Gardens to get a gauge on the competition in southwest Florida. She'll also look to improve a 100m PR of 12.95 and a 200m PR of 26.43. The 100 time would be good enough to qualify for the 4A-3 regional meet if the times fit in from last season.
"The journey has not been easy. To be where I am today is incredible. A lot of coaches gave up on me because they didn't think I could jump as well because my legs just weren't strong enough," Reed said.
Walker's investment in Reed has manifested into a great coach-athlete relationship for the two.
"China has a great support system in her parents," Walker said. "Our relationship is close and she understands me without me even saying anything."