CHARLOTTE – During Rocky River’s first meet of the 2016-17 indoor track and field season, Ravens coach Antoine Sidberry approached his new prodigy, instructed him to head to the triple jump event and just like they had practiced, show what he could do.
It was Nov. 18, 2016. Christopher Alexander, then a sophomore and a little confused by Sidberry’s order, said OK to his coach as he got ready to compete.
Alexander would place second that day at the JDL FastTrack in Winston-Salem with a jump of 41 feet, 5.0 inches, which wasn’t bad. Especially considering Sidberry had never spent a second working with Alexander on the triple jump.
“The first time he jumped I thought we had gone over it before in practice,” Sidberry said. “We got to the first meet of the season and as he was walking to the triple jump when he said, ‘Coach, I’ve never practiced it before.’ I realized then that we hadn’t done anything with him on the triple jump, but he got with a kid from another school who kind of showed him what to do. His first jump wasn’t great, but we said to ourselves, ‘Oh man, if he can jump that far and has never done it before, that this was going to be his ticket.’”
Turns out, Sidberry was right. Jumping, particularly the triple jump, has become Alexander’s specialty. It’s growing his acclaim in statewide and national track and field circles.
Alexander would improve his distances in the triple jump that first indoor season by nearly three feet. During his sophomore outdoor season, Alexander was clearing a season-best jump of 46 feet, 4 inches, nearly five feet more than his first attempt.
That year, Alexander placed third in the state in the triple jump and cleared 21 feet, 8 inches to place second in the region in the long jump.
Alexander has stepped up his game this season to become one of the nation’s top jumpers and the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“I really like the triple jump because it has three phases and allows you to jump farther,” Alexander said. “I’ve been holding my phases a lot more and getting my jumps a lot further.”
After winning his first individual state championship this winter in the triple jump (47-9.5 feet), Alexander has come into his own this spring.
He began his junior year’s outdoor season with a jump of 48 feet, 1 inch in the triple jump, but set a new personal record in the state meet. There, he won another individual title with a new personal-best jump of 49-4.0, which is not only the No. 2 jump in the state, it’s also the 14th best in the country.
Alexander also cleared a personal-best 23-7.75 to place second in the state meet in the long jump. That distance is North Carolina’s fourth-best distance this season and is tied for the 87th-best in the nation.
While both jumps are exceptional, it’s the triple jump that has garnered recruiting interest from Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Clemson, N.C. State, Western Carolina, Missouri and “a couple more” schools Sidberry said have called to ask about Alexander.
“Those are big schools with good programs,” Alexander said. “That would be so great for me. It would provide me a better living and give me the chance to be great. I’m trying to use track to get myself into a better situation, and right now it feels really good.”
And, Sidberry said, Alexander is just scratching the surface.
“He has owned it and has put in all of the work,” he said. “He found something he was good at and he’s worked tirelessly at it to get better. He’s always looking for feedback. It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive, he’s going to take all of that information that everyone gives him. He’s going to listen because he wants to be great.
“There’s still a lot of technical stuff wrong with his jump, but if we can fix it before he leaves high school, he might break the high school national record. I think he can be that good.”
The national record, which was set in 2004, is 56 feet, 2.5 inches. The No. 2 spot is 53-11, just over four feet more than Alexander cleared this season.
At the New Balance Nationals, which is being held June 15 to 17 in Greensboro, Alexander said he’s looking to get 25 feet in the long jump and maybe flirt with 51 feet in the triple jump. Sidberry thinks his budding star can do that and so much more.
“He’s not the typical jumper because he’s six feet tall and not the typical long, skinny guy who excels in the sport. But he’s explosive,” Sidberry said. “Because he has so much technically wrong, 56 feet is not impossible. He probably loses two feet because he lands like he’s sitting in a chair whereas you’re supposed to land with your legs extended. If he’s jumping 50 now, that puts him at 52. If we add a foot to each of the three phases, now we’re at 55. So it sounds crazy, but there’s so much that can happen for him.”
Alexander said he’s having a great time working through the recruiting process and working hard to hone in his jumps.
While it’s fun, it’s also a lot of work for someone Sidberry says is one of his most determined athletes.
“I really wouldn’t be surprised with anything he does because of the way he works and his will to get better,” Sidberry said. “He’s worked and worked to get where he is, and he has some more work to do. But I know he’ll put it in and do what he needs to to get where he wants to go.
“I want him to enjoy the ride he’s on and the whole recruiting process he’s about to go through. With him jumping 49 right now, he’s setting himself apart. The schools who were watching him are now calling and asking what they can do to get him. When he breaks 50, the phones are really going to ring. From there ,who knows because they know he can be one of the really good ones.”