STATE TRACK: Svalland sets bar high for state
WORTHINGTON -- It's before noon on a hot June morning. The mixture of the sun's rays and the separation from school build the perfect excuse for any teenager to either stay in bed with the air conditioning or head out for some shenanigans with friends.
One teenager sits alone at Trojan Field, stretching. There is a quiet calmess to a place that is usually oozing with cleats clacking, whistles blowing and people yelling, as the only hint of noise on the field is a few birds chirping.
Worthington junior Tara Svalland represents a different type of thinking and, just as she was Wednesday at Trojan Field, will be traveling alone to the state meet for track and field, as the only Trojan state qualifier.
Svalland will venture to Minneapolis today to compete in the high jump in Class AA. Just like her field event, Svalland has the bar set high.
"I want to place high," Svalland said. "I just want to go out there and try my best. Just making state is an accomplishment."
You don't just wake up and decide to give up bright June days in order to bend your body in ways that are simply not logical via gymnastics, high jump and volleyball, as Svalland does.
"I started young with gymnastics when I was three or four years old," Svalland said. "I started dance and my mom signed me up and I fell in love with gymnastics.
"I tried out for track in middle school and (WHS coach Ken Henkels) said I should try high jump. It was kind of like gymnastics, in terms of bending my body, so it just came naturally to me."
Does an athlete know what they do is crazy?
"Yeah," Svalland said.
How does one get past the mental aspect of jumping in the air with too many risks to list?
"I don't know," Svalland said. "I just breathe and clear my mind.
"I just have to trust my body and know that I'm going to be OK."
Doug Brands has coached Svalland for three years on the high jump. As a high jumper for three years at WHS and for three years at the University of Sioux Falls, Brands knows it takes a different kind of person to tackle the bar.
"I wouldn't say it takes a special person, as much as it takes the right person," Brands said. "It isn't just the jumping up and not seeing where you're going as it's the heading toward the bar that does it. When you get that bar across your back the first time is usually when a lot of athletes end trying."
Svalland's business of doing the illogical has even her coaches considering it simple for her.
"For gymnastics, she flips a bunch of times in the air and lands on her feet," Brands said. "This stuff is pretty easy compared to what she does on the floor or on the vault."
"The two things you're looking for is the jumping ability and flexibility and she has both. She can jump well for volleyball and the flexibility she carries over from gymnastics. I don't see many other athletes who can bend the way she can."
WHS track andd field coach Ken Henkels echoed Brands' sentiments.
"Tara is very athletic, so I think anything Tara does she can be good at," Henkels said. "I always bug her that high jump is her best sport, even though she's really good at volleyball and gymnastics."
Jumping in ways that would make most cringe has been kind to Svalland, as today's trip to state is her fifth, with three coming in gymnastics and two coming in the high jump. It's almost routine to see Svalland's name as a state qualifier, but, just like the risks that come with her sports, Svalland is not fazed by the success.
"I worry about the season during the season and I worry about state during state," Svalland said. "I just focus on what I have to do."
There was no regret in Svalland, spending a beautiful day training Wednesday.
"I get time off, but I wouldn't feel right not doing any sports," Svalland said.
As for her somewhat crazy choice of sports, Svalland wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love it," Svalland said. "It's part of me. I feel like a different person when I'm flying in the air."
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.