When personal trainer Andy Wight teamed up in September with Westbrook High’s All-America high jumper Nyagoa Bayak, he listened to her goals – and then set the bar higher.

“Nyagoa wants to jump 6 feet,” said Wight, co-owner of AW Strength and Conditioning in Westbrook. “I asked her when we met what was her best recorded jump and she said 5-11. And I said, ‘We are not going to go for 6 feet. We are going to shoot for 6-2.’ She looked at me kind of funny. But it’s not unrealistic.”

Only five high school girls in the country have ever cleared 6-1 in the indoor high jump, according to Track and Field News. Wight believes Bayak could become the sixth in 2019 – as she attempts to eclipse both the indoor and outdoor New England records.

Bayak, a senior, has won five Class A state titles in the event. As a freshman, she won the first of three New England titles during indoor track – while playing basketball that winter.

As a junior, Bayak won the indoor and outdoor New England titles, setting all-time Maine records with jumps of 5-10 indoors and 5-11 outdoors. She finished third at the New Balance national indoor meet and second at the national outdoor championship.

She has attempted 6 feet only a handful of times, just nicking the bar as she attempted to clear it.

“I would love to win nationals,” Bayak said. “But really I want to just focus on my heights and what I need to clear the bar.”

While Bayak has improved every year, she has never done much work in the weight room. Wight said the weight work she did this fall is going to make a difference.

The past three months, the two worked on Bayak’s hip and arm strength and other target areas that require strength specific to movements in the high jump.

“It’s funny you don’t think about jumping as an upper-body movement,” Wight said. “But the arm swing is important, especially for high jumpers. If they can reach up and over with power, it benefits them getting a little higher. That was one thing we worked on: Nyagoa’s arm swing a different way, swinging up through her middle.”

The first time Bayak tried driving with her arms up, she turned to Wight and said it felt different.

He replied: “You floated, didn’t you?”

Bayak nodded.

“It definitely has helped,” Bayak said.

The New England indoor high jump record, set in 1995, is 5-11, a height Bayak reached outdoors last year. The New England outdoor record is 6-1, set in 1996.

Bayak is not far away, and Wight is confident she will keep improving.

“She is at the top of the list for best young athletes,” Wight said. “She’s very responsive. If you tell her something is an issue, she makes it her personal goal to make sure she does it better. She is an absolute delight to work with. She’s had a few breakout years. I think that is going to continue this year.”

Westbrook Coach Beth Murphy said Bayak is in a class of elite athletes.

“Nyagoa is unique,” Murphy said. “Nyagoa doesn’t care about other competitors. Track is an individual sport and you have to be focused on yourself. She’s got the right mentality. She doesn’t overthink things. That’s why she keeps going higher and higher.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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