Flying High – CA’s Mater Dei High School Jumps Team Sets the Bar of Jumping Expectations
Mater Dei Catholic High School located in Santa Ana, Ca is known as one of the top high school sporting schools in the Nation. The track and field teams are quickly making their way up the ranks when compared to Boys and Girls basketball, Football, and Water Polo.
With so many track and field disciplines it can be a challenge to have a well-rounded team. Mater Dei is known for great pole vaults, throwers, sprints, and hurdles. The Mater Dei track and field jumps team is quickly becoming a dominant factor as well. Orchestrated by head jump coach Keinan Briggs he has created a unique group called The Leap Squad. The Mater Dei Leap Squad stands for Lead, Elevate, Achieve, and Prevail. Squad members are becoming Leaders in their community, Elevating their standards by Achieving all goals, and Prevailing through challenges and adversity. The purpose of the Leap Squad was to not only develop well-rounded athletes but to create movement and develop better young adults within the community.
This 2015 track and field season marks Keinan’s 4th year as the head jumps coach at Mater Dei high school. In his short tenure as coach Briggs has constructed a strong jumps program-developing athletes ready for the next level. The Leap Squad currently has 5 alumni competing in college with 3 at the D1 level with many more on pace. Briggs’ purpose is to prepare his athletes for competition at the highest level possible with a strong base to build upon at the next level.
Seniors Kyra Coley and Jazmin Moss and Freshman Dominique Ruotolo lead the Mater Dei Lady Leap Squad. Kyra Coley is ranked number 8 in CA under all wind conditions in the triple jump with her mark of 38'11.25. Jazmin Moss is ranked 12th in CA with her mark of 37'3. Dominique Ruotolo ranks in the top 3 under all wind conditions in CA amongst the Freshman in all jumping events triple jump 36'6, long jump 17'2, and high jump 5'3. The Leap Squad has a total of 5 triple jumpers over 35 feet and 6 long jumpers over 16', with 2 over 17' all amazing marks to start season with.
The Mater Dei Leap Squad stands out because, "the training is very jumps specific and focused on what each athlete needs to improve on; it's challenging but worth it," said senior transfer jumper Alexis Brown who has improved almost two feet on her personal best triple jump mark.
“I have learned to never give up and to work hard to achieve my goals on the track and in life. I am always challenging myself to do better and become a stronger person,” said senior team captain Jazmin Moss.
“I’ve learned a lot from the track program. Something I use on and off the track is dealing with adversity. I have definitely learned how to deal with adversity by turning a negative into a positive,” said senior team captain Kyra Coley.
When asked what makes his program stand out Briggs replied, “Attention. I put effort in giving each athlete the attention he or she needs. For example in the off-season I put attention on general fitness and waking up secondary muscles. The main focus of summer training is building confidence which is the cornerstone to success. In the fall we have a meeting at set goals for the year and I increase the intensity of training to reflect their goals. In the winter I put attention on the technical aspect and developing motor skills in each event which gear them up for season. In-season we compete with all the attention on the end result...is the year-end goals set back in the fall by each athlete. Then we have fun with it.
I run a college-like jumps program. Many of my athletes are full-time track and field athletes. Track and field is a training sport unlike basketball or soccer where you make lose skill by not playing. A track and field athlete may compete in 10-20 track meets all season and 4-6 of those are where the athlete is expected to perform at a very high level. In track and field the athlete is the object that is being used; the goal is to create a stronger, faster, more powerful object to use. It’s kind of like playing basketball or soccer with a flat, weathered ball; most times the ball makes all difference in the world when playing, why not have the best?
What do you do differently when teaching the triple jump?
I recognize what type of athlete I am going to be working with; there are speed jumpers or power-based jumper. I always start by showing the athletes video if they have not seen the event yet, most cases they have never even heard of it. Then I walk through the science behind the triple jump. Always start slow with each athlete so they feel good after each practice, this helps create acceptance in the event and movement patters. Most new jumpers fight the triple jump this helps improve the learning curve. The key is to understand the triple jump takes coordination and specific movements in a sequential order; coaches have to allow the motor skills of each athlete to connect before progressing to the next aspect. So, to finally answer the question I break down every element of the jump and piece it all together.
What key element has helped you with your success?
Well to be honest it has been two. Firstly, Head Coach Rick Martinez does a great job with allowing his staff to coach. I have experienced all types of coaching styles and philosophies but Martinez trusts in his staff, he allows us to do what we do best. As an assistant, being able to have the freedom but also the guidance is very helpful. Secondly, having full-time track athletes is a luxury. Most coaches only get paid during track season and getting a coach out year round is almost impossible. I have made the choice to be out on the track with my kids year round because I love what I do. When you have the time to correctly train an athlete the improvements shoot through the roof. Also having the time to really work on the technical aspect with a smaller group is more productive. When all the kids come out during season the newbies will be able to learn quicker when they tag along with the experience jumpers.
What can we expect from the Leap Squad this season?
Honestly I have no idea what we are capable of... there is no limit. Every weekend all my jumpers blow me away in amazement. I just sit back and watch the show. On average I expect my long jumpers to improve about 1 foot and triple jumper 2 feet but you never know. All I can do is keep motivating each athlete to stay focused daily and keep working towards their goals. My goal as a coach is to have all my athletes reach their perspective goals; if that happens we will re-write the history books for jumps in California, which would be a great experience.
What is your background?
I was introduced to track and field my freshman year of high school. I ended up being very competitive earning a few accolades on the way in all the jumps and hurdles. I went on to Orange Coast College where I improved my talent-earning Athlete of the year. I earned a full scholarship to Cal State University, Los Angeles where I specialized in the triple jump and hurdles and earned a degree in Communications. Post college I kept working and competed in two USA National Track Championships as a professional jumper. Along the way I have had every type of coach from world-class athletes to national team coaches. Every coach taught me such valuable lessons, which helped me coach myself placing as high as 6th at the 2011 USATF Indoor National Championships and ranking amongst the world’s best athletes. Now all that experience I have received is given right back to my athletes in a way they can understand and connect with.
Readers can keep up with Coach Keinan Briggs and his Mater Dei Leap Squad team at www.keinanbriggs.com
You can also ask him a question at Ask a Coach
Leap Squad Stats can be found at Prepcaltrack.com
Lady Leap Squad Triple Jumpers
Kyra Coley (Sr.) 37’11
Jazmin Moss (Sr.) 37’3
Dominique Ruotolo (Fr.) 36’6
Alexis Brown (Sr.) 35’9
Aliyah Forbes (Jr.) 35’1
Taylor Ashmore (Jr.) 34’9
Lady Leap Squad Long Jumpers
Jazmin Moss (Sr.)17’3
Dominique Ruotolo (Fr.) 17’2
Taylor Ashmore (Jr.) 16’10
Kyra Coley (Sr.) 16’8
Alexis Brown (Sr.) 16’2