Greene soars to wondrous heights, defends high jump championship
Written by: Nicholas Baltz & Madeline Cabrera / Staff Writer (The Southwestern Sun)
What if someone wagered, with a running start, they could jump over Shaquille O’ Neal without touching him.
Jaguars’ high jumper Branden Greene could win that bet. He owns the school record, 7-feet 1-inch.
Greene’s leaping ability was on full display at the California State Championships at Mt. San Antonio College. He won his second consecutive state title in the high jump with a height of 6-feet 11-inches.
“Overall a win is a win,” said Greene. “I’m glad I got the gold, the height doesn’t really matter afterwards.”
Greene also holds the school’s long jump record. A natural talent, he did not join the track and field team until his junior year at Bonita Vista High School.
Coach Tonie Campbell said that a good staff is a key part of developing successful athletes like Greene.
“The coaches I have are some of the best you’ll ever find,” said Campbell. “They are passionate about track and field, but also well versed in the newest technologies and theories.”
Jumping coach Kuba Wasowski said his job is easy with athletes like Greene.
“He’s a motor genius,” he said. “You teach him something, you tell him to do something and he applies it right away, which is rare.”
At the high jump state championships Greene took multiple attempts with the bar at 7’3” despite only needing a jump of 6’11” to defend his title. Wasowski said he was satisfied with Greene’s accomplishment.
“You can’t ask for anything more as a coach,” he said. “The way he’s been jumping at that 7’3” height, it’s just a matter of time before he gets it.”
Late in the season Greene jumped another barrier and signed a scholarship offer to the University of Mississippi.
“So much weight came off,” he said. “ That’s all I was worried about this year, finding somewhere to go and Ole Miss offered me a full ride.”
Sophomore jumper Dominique Fuqua said Greene set the bar for teammates as well.
“He’s made me better in long jump, I started the season at 21 [feet] and have passed like 23,” he said. “At first I never thought I could get that far, but training with Branden has pushed me to go a lot further.”
Fuqua is in the all-time SWC Top 10 leaders in long jump and triple jump. He is still considering multiple schools to be a kinesiology major, but said it would be hard to leave California.
Paula Aleman was another top contender for SWC. She won the SoCal Championship in the 400-meter hurdle and said she entered with sights on the gold. Aleman finished the race in third, but realized she had accomplished a tremendous feat.
“It just wasn’t my time to win, but I gave it my all and I’m happy to say I won SoCal,” she said. “I’m a champion and I’m third best in California, so you can’t ask for more.”
Her great career at SWC is over, but Aleman’s future has never been brighter.
“I had a great season, I broke my school record over and over again,” she said. “I can basically pick any school I want to go to, but it’s hard. I haven’t made a decision.”
George Martinez made an excellent transition this season from the cross-country team. He finished third in the 10,000m run (6.2 miles) with a time of 32:21.44. He also competed in the 5,000m and finished 10th. Martinez has accepted a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley.
Sophomore pole-vaulter Korin Chapman finished a strong season as 7th in the state and owns the women’s school all time record. Sophomore Justin Smith also did well for the men’s pole vault, he is number two on the school’s all time list.
Breakout freshman heptathlon athlete Maria De Jesus Garcia finished 9th in the SoCal Championships and broke another school record, but it was not enough to move onto the state finals.
Reflecting back on the season, Campbell said it was like riding a wave.
“Sixteen school records in one season,” he said. “It’s been amazing. It’s a collaboration of coaching and motivated athletes that have talent.”