- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - It’s been a season to remember for Mitchell’s Carly Haring.

The Kernel eighth-grader went from competing in her first varsity meet on May 1 to winning the Class AA girls high jump at the state track and field meet May 30 in Rapid City.

Haring was also the gold-medal winner_which means she had the top jump in all three classes_with her leap of 5 feet, 3.25 inches.

“It’s still kind of mesmerizing,” Haring said about being the top girls high jumper in the state.

Haring’s season had a storybook ending, but Mitchell head coach Geoff Gross said Haring’s rise from middle school competitor to varsity-level jumper was impressive.

Haring first competed with the varsity team at the Sioux Falls O’Gorman Invitational, and Gross said the coaches didn’t try to push her too much.

“Our general philosophy is to not bring eighth-graders along (with the varsity team) unless they are absolutely ready,” Gross said. “We tried to bring her along slowly, and we didn’t want to discontinue her ties with the middle school program.”

Mitchell junior Tevyn Waddell won the O’Gorman Invitational with a jump of 5-2, while Haring struggled in her first varsity meet, The Daily Republic (http://bit.ly/1RKkiri ) reported.

“My first one was a little rough, but each time out I kept getting better,” Haring said. “I like the bigger crowds because they gave me a little more adrenaline and made me think a little less.”

After Haring cleared 5 feet at her first middle school meet this year, she was determined to qualify for the state meet, which required her to clear the same mark at a high school meet.

Throughout the season, Haring had her mother, Jennifer, a former high jumper, cheering and helping her along the way.

“It’s been really exciting,” said Jennifer Haring, who was a high jumper in high school and reached the height of 5-5 as a senior. “She just keeps improving and I hope she can keep it up. She’s already passed me and it makes it that much more exciting, because I have a history with the sport.”

Gross said he first recognized Carly as a possible state champion at the Eastern South Dakota Conference meet on May 16.

“It became very apparent to me that her natural jumping ability would carry her through the season,” Gross said. “She was getting her hips up and the way the rest of the state was stacking up, there was no clear-cut favorite.”

Carly took second at the conference meet with a jump of 5-2.

Going up against high school athletes can be a challenge for any middle school athlete, and Gross said it was important to not put too much pressure on Carly.

“Sometimes the less you know, the better off you are,” Gross said. “We wanted her to get comfortable with the high school athletes, and I think it’s obvious we brought her along at the right speed.”

The coaching approach continued to pay off as Carly won the high jump at the Huron Invitational, a week before the state meet, with a mark of 5-3.

“Sometimes we as coaches need to keep our mouths shut and let a kid do what they can do naturally,” Gross said. “Carly is a good example of that.”

Both Jennifer and Carly credited Mitchell coach Deb Thill with helping provide Carly the proper practice and coaching throughout the season.

Entering the state event with only a handful of varsity meet experience, Carly said she kept her thinking simple while she prepared to jump in front of thousands of fans in Rapid City.

“I tried to go off muscle memory,” Carly said. “I just had to tell myself, ‘I know what to do’.”

Jennifer said her daughter’s work ethic has stood out the most and played a key role in Carly becoming a state champion.

“She has an extremely strong work ethic,” Jennifer said. “She’s an incredibly hard-working kid and I think that is why she is where she’s at.”

While the state championship is something that can’t be taken away from Carly, Gross said he hopes his high jumper understands what she has accomplished.

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Gross said Carly’s height and body type give her a boost on the rest of the field.

Carly turned 14 in April, and Gross said his young high jumper already has plenty of natural talent in the sport.

“She’s got a good natural feel for where the bar is,” Gross said. “We try not to correct her too much. She can continue to work on her overall core strength and explosiveness, but that will all come with time.”

With a state title already captured, Gross said Carly’s future with the Kernels will be about keeping things simple.

“She’s growing into her body right now and she has a good approach as it is,” Gross said.

Carly said performing in front of bigger crowds is something that pushed her to new heights throughout the season and will keep her striving for more in seasons to come.

“I enjoy the freedom of it,” Haring said. “When you are in the air, you don’t really think.”

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Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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