COLUMBUS — When Etaijen "E.T." Easter cleared 6 feet, 6 inches at Saturday's state finals, he was assured of a top-four finish in the Division I high jump.
It was remarkable — especially given that his high was 6-4 a year prior — but there was no celebration from Easter, who simply turned to jumps coach Chuck Glover.
He wasn't thinking about his second attempt at 6-6, which was successful. He wanted to know about his first attempt at 6-6, in which he hit the bar. He wanted to know what he had done wrong, what he could do better.
That attention to detail, that obsession with getting better, is a big part of why the Twinsburg junior exited Columbus with a bronze medal, after soaring over the bar on his third and final attempt at 6-7 to pass Dublin Coffman junior Derek Van Vlerah for third.
That's after not making state in 2017.
"I feel like I improved so much," Easter said. "I came a long way."
"Easter, Ryan Adkins and Brad Yates all competed in the Division I state rack meet for their first time and gained a lot of experience while competing well this year," said Twinsburg coach Dalanda Jackson.
"All three young men are already eager to improve their performances next year as they move into their senior year," added Jackson.
There's no doubt Easter has natural advantages in the high jump, namely his long, lean frame. Glover, who has taken seven high jumpers to Columbus in 10 years at Twinsburg, said he has brought kids who weren't great jumpers to state based on their attention to detail. Easter, Glover said, is a great jumper and is committed to the process.
"He's got the perfect build for it," Glover said. "The kid is coachable. He's humble. He's been crying since he missed that last attempt."
Glover said there were also tears following the end of Easter's 2017 season, when he fell short of state at the Austintown regional by the slimmest of margins. Maple Heights then-senior Ronald Bright, Canton McKinley then-senior Deshawn White and Easter all maxed out at 6-4 on that fateful May afternoon, but Easter's lone strike of the day prior to 6-5 — knocking the bar over once at 6-2 — proved the difference.
"At first I was so mad, but then I found I'm just going to have to be better and make it to state and everything paid off," Easter said.
Glover added, "He was the one pushing me to get to the gym with him three days a week."
For Easter, some motivation came from hitting the bar — but some motivation came from watching others clear the bar. He would sneak peeks at baumspage, a website devoted to track and field among other sports, and see what other jumpers were clearing, not just his Buckeye State competitors, but jumpers around the country.
"What drives me a lot is probably me going to baumspage and I go on there and I look at everybody else's stuff for high jump and that just pushes me to get better every day," Easter said. "I saw another high jumper, from Vegas I think it was, jumped 7-3, and I'm like, 'Alright, I got to get better than that,' so I go hit coach up and tell him that I want to go to practice and get better."
Those practices don't involve a lot of jumping. Per Glover, those practices focus on strengthening Easter's core and perfecting his approach. Easter will run through a procession of cones, and Glover will film him, trying to get every detail right for when Easter does have to run up to the bar and clear it.
"I'm looking for the right body position at takeoff, because that's really all it is," Glover said. "You've got to have your body at the right position at takeoff and you've got to have enough speed for the momentum to carry you into the pit."
Glover will look at something as subtle as: Is Easter's right shoulder lower than his left, as it should be?
"Even during the season, we don't do a lot of jumping," Glover said. "Ninety percent of the event is on the ground. Once you take off, your flight path is already pre-determined, so I work with him 90 percent of the time on the ground."
Hard work on the ground led to big achievements through the air in 2018, from a 6-6 to start the indoor season to a 6-9 to win the indoor title to a 6-10 at the Suburban League meet that led to excited whispers.
"Everybody keeps saying he jumped seven feet," Glover said. "Not officially, but we have it on video, he was that far above the 6-10 bar."
Seven feet or even 6-10 would have won a state title, but Easter couldn't quite make it back Saturday. Not after six hours spent under the grueling hot sun.
His Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium started at 11 a.m., preparing for the Division I boys long jump at Noon. Finishing seventh in the long jump was great, except that meant he spent his next hour in the heat, waiting to climb the podium and receive his medal.
And that's not even mentioning all of his jumps, between the long jump and the high jump.
"You usually start to lose it in your legs after about the ninth or 10th jump and he was up to 16, 17 jumps today," Glover said.
Perhaps a little tired, according to Glover, Easter glanced the bar on his first and third attempts at 6-8. It wasn't a full-blown collision into the bar, just the slightest touch that led to the bar falling.
"I can tell he was tired," Glover said. "He was slow coming out of the turn on his approach and he was stalling out in the air and coming down on the bar. He just didn't have enough momentum to carry him into the pit and that's a function of being tired."
Miamisburg senior Jason Hubbard also glanced the bar at 6-8 and it remained in place en route to a state title.
"There's some luck involved," Glover said. "Lady Luck's got to be smiling on you at times."
Then again, as the adage goes, you make your own luck, and Easter will surely be driven once more entering his senior season at Twinsburg.
"We've got unfinished business," Glover said. "This gives us something else to work on for the next year."
Adkins, a cross-country standout, placed 17th overall in Ohio in a loaded 1,600-meter race at OSU.
Registering a time of 4 minutes, 22.84 seconds, Adkins placed among Ohio's best. At the Austintown Fitch Regionals, Adkins crossed third with a season best clocking of 4:20.27.
Yates, who was fourth in regionals at 13-8, competed at his first state meet as well.
The improving Yates could not reach the opening height of 13-6, but he will be one of the top athletes in the event in the 2019 season.
"All three young men are already eager to improve their performances next year as they move into their senior year," added Jackson, who will sorely miss a small, but impactful senior class.
In the team standings, Pickerington Central won the state title in Division I with 58 points over Centerville (36.5).
Editor’s note: Correspondent Steve Batko contributed to this report.