Cayden Spencer-Thompson plays basketball in the winter, does little to no weight lifting and mostly coaches himself in his track and field events – the triple jump and long jump.

The Mattanawcook Academy junior stepped into the national spotlight this year as one of the country’s top jumpers, and swept the triple jump and long jump at the New England championships, setting all-time Maine bests in both events.

For that, Spencer-Thompson is the Maine Sunday Telegram outdoor track and field boys’ athlete of the year.

At the New England championships, Spencer-Thompson became the first Maine high schooler to surpass 24 feet in the long jump, winning at 24-1 3/4. He also broke his all-time Maine record in the triple jump, going 48-3 3/4.

That came after he won both events at the Class C state championships, with marks of 46-5 in the triple jump and 23-1 1/2 in the long jump.

Spencer Thompson has competed in track and field since he was 5, but in high school he has played basketball in the winter. And yet as a freshman he went to the New England outdoor championships and finished 10th out of 24 athletes in the triple jump (42-5 3/4). The next year he placed second in the triple jump (47-8 1/2) and third in the long jump (23-0 3/4). Then he continued his improvement this year.

“His goal is 50 feet in the triple jump,” said Mattanawcook Academy Coach Bernice Stockley.

Stockley said Spencer-Thompson always has been serious about track and field, even though he trains and competes on his own during the indoor season, when he’s not playing basketball.

“He loves the triple jump,” Stockley said. “He practices on his own. He watches video tapes.

“I think the fact he does other sports keeps him fresh for track. He’s not constantly doing the same event.”

Spencer-Thompson said he started taking video of himself in elementary school, and eventually started studying video of professional jumpers. After years of breaking down video of professional jumpers, he said he can feel if he is doing something different from what the professional jumpers do.

The triple jump, in particular, is a highly technical event requiring one large hop and then a large skip before taking off on one leg for the final jump.

“As I got to high school I could feel what I was doing wrong,” Spencer-Thompson said. “And I’m still growing, so that helps.”

His freshman year he was 5-foot-11. He grew to 6-1 his sophomore year, and has since shot up to 6-4.

Spencer-Thompson agreed with his coach that playing other sports has helped him because of the bounding he does in basketball and the short sprints he does in football as a wide receiver.

“Basketball helps with jumping and football helps with speed,” he said. “And you have to be mentally tough. That helps. Then it all comes together in track.”

And yet he thinks there’s more room for improvement.

“I don’t do much weight lifting. I could be better about that,” he said.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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Twitter: FlemingPph