Jeff Ondo won’t surprise as many track fans this year. The Midview junior is recognized as a threat for a Division I state championship in the high jump.
Last year, Ondo tied Middletown junior Jalin Marshall for fourth by clearing 6-foot-6. North Canton Glen Oak senior Cody Jones defeated Pickerington North sophomore John Harris for the title — both made 6-7, but Harris had more misses. New Albany junior Alex Frye was third, also clearing 6-6.
Youth was the hallmark of last year’s state field. Eight of the top nine finishers and 10 of the top 12 were underclassmen.
Ondo is primed for this season’s run-up to the postseason. He’s been in training since December under the tutelage of Amherst assistant Mike Lugar, who heads Lake Erie Jumps Club.
“I feel like it’s going to be a very good season,” said Ondo, who is 6-1 and weighs 160 pounds. “I want to improve a lot. I haven’t been training as much the past month because of stiffness in my lower back. I had to go to physical therapy, but my back is all better now. They said the problem had to do with a lack of flexibility, but once I stretch out every thing is fine.”
Ondo works on strength training with a personal trainer at World Gym in Elyria. He’s got a good grasp of the blueprint it takes to be on the top of podium in June at Ohio State.
“I need to get stronger with lifting,” Ondo said. “With my approach pattern I just need to work on improving my speed, get faster with it and get a good last step.”
Midview has never had a state track and field champ, but two barely missed. Charles Lange was second for the 3,200 meters in 1982. Aaron Fenzel took second in the 400 in 1997.
Ondo qualified to state last year with a third-place finish at the Amherst regional with a jump of 6-5. He tied his career best a week earlier when he captured the Amherst district at 6-6.
Only a 6-0 jumper as a freshman, Ondo made the first big step last year by joining Lugar’s jumps club. The difference has been significant.
“Mike’s focus is developing my speed,” Ondo said. “I started getting better towards the end of last season.
“For heights my goal is jumping 6-10 or 7-0 hopefully by the end of the season.”
Ondo started high jumping in the eighth grade, clearing 5-3 for a season best. He managed to clear 6-0 during the regular season as freshman, finished sixth at the 2011 West Shore Conference meet (5-10) but no-heighted at 5-8 at the district meet.
To come back and improve to 6-6 as a sophomore is nothing short of exceptional.
Twice Ondo has come close to breaking Gary Larkins’ 1983 school record of 6-8½. The first time was after he cleared 6-6 last spring in a home dual meet vs. Avon.
“One of his biggest assets is he’s probably one of the fastest high jumpers out there,” Lugar said. “So for right now, it’s about getting back to the basics and starting over. By the time we get to districts, regionals and state, we’re going to have everything all polished out.”
Larkins was Midview’s last boys district champ for high jump, winning in 1983 and ’84. He qualified to state both seasons.
“We’re at the eight-step approach for right now so he can control his speed,” Lugar said. “We’re trying to get him back to 10 steps. As soon as he’s able to control those, a lot of that has to do with reaction. How quickly can the muscles react.
“He’s so fast right now he can’t react. That takes time. He cleared 6-6 at district by a good 6 or 8 inches. It’s just a matter of him getting more experienced. There are some very tough jumpers out there.”
Ondo first hooked up with Lugar through a referral from Josh Hudson, a 2012 North Ridgeville graduate. Lugar’s jump club represents up to 40 kids from 11 area high schools.
“It’s going to be fun at this year’s Lorain County meet,” Lugar said of the April 19 event at Midview. “Those are all my kids. It’s a blast. We’re going to wear all kind of goofy socks. We all practice together so we might as well all jump together.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.