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He took a leap, now he's FLYING HIGH.

Byline: Chris Hansen The Register-Guard

Brian Rowe's first competitive high jump in six years came just nine weeks ago. Come Thursday at the OSAA Class 6A state track and field meet at Hayward Field, he will take his last.

The three-sport star from South Eugene is a surprise No. 2 seed in the event after winning the Southwest Conference district meet last week with a 6-foot, 6-inch clearance.

It was a three-inch personal record for the senior, who rapidly has risen from a state-meet qualifying javelin thrower in 2006 to an unlikely high jump contender in just a couple of months.

"It's definitely surprised me," Rowe, 18, admitted. "But each time I come to a new sport, I pick it up quickly."

And it's not only in track and field.

Rowe was the placekicker for the Axemen football team last fall and after just his first season in that sport, he earned honorable mention all-state and first-team all-Southwest Conference honors.

Then, of course, there is soccer. Rowe was a first-team all-state goalkeeper this past season and will be headed to UCLA in the fall on a soccer scholarship.

That is why Rowe is adamant that once the state meet is complete, so will be his high jump career.

"I've definitely talked about it with my family," Rowe said. "But I'm done after this weekend. Same thing with football."

However, it's hard to imagine the UCLA track team not being intrigued by a kid who has cleared 6-6 with very limited training, especially after the top Bruin finisher in the high jump at last weekend's Pac-10 championships cleared only 6-6 3/4 .

So what happens if, say, Bruins jumps coach Mike Powell, the long jump world-record holder, pays Rowe a visit next fall?

"I'm going to focus on soccer," Rowe insisted with a laugh. "But I definitely had fun while it lasted."

Rowe discovered his high jump ability back in March while practicing for the Purple-White meet, an intrasquad competition at which South coach Jeff Hess requires all of his athletes to try an event outside of their typical repertoire.

"He was the one shining star that came out of that experiment," Hess chuckled.

Rowe, who hadn't competed in the high jump since clearing 4-10 as a sixth grader, made it over 5-10 in practice, then cleared 6-2 at the team meet.

"Without any instruction, to come out and be able to get up a little bit and already have some technique, I was like 'Okay, he can learn this,' " Hess said.

Working with Axemen jumps coach Jeff Lindsey, a former University of Oregon high jumper, Rowe gradually increased his clearances.

He got over 6-3 at the XO Invite on April 28 and two weeks later at the district meet, Rowe was the first competitor to get over 6-4. He didn't even have a miss at the district meet until his first attempt at 6-6, which he eventually cleared on his third try.

Rowe's first attempt at 6-8 wasn't close, but his final two were near misses.

And he did it all with what appeared to be a carefree attitude. He worked fast, and smiled and laughed throughout the competition.

"I'm pretty much out there having fun," Rowe said. "I'm enjoying myself."

Rowe is one of four high jumpers at the state meet who have 6-6 or higher as their best mark of the season. The state leader in 6A is West Salem's Jordan Bishop, who has surpassed 6-9. Vernell Warren of Grant has cleared 6-8, and Spencer Patterson of Tigard has a 6-6 1/2 season best.

So Rowe won't go into the competition as a favorite, though as he proved at districts, it's not wise to view him as a darkhorse, either.

"I'm definitely feeling good about where I'm at," Rowe said. "I still feel like I have a lot left."

And only one day left to show it.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports; Brian Rowe is off to state after returning to the high jump nine weeks ago
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 16, 2007
Words:650
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