Hightower clears a high bar to help Titans to repeat title
By Jerrid Denney | For The Register-Guard
GRESHAM — The meet didn’t begin for Dakarai Hightower until he had already won it.
The Lane Community College sophomore captured the men’s high jump title on his second jump of the day at the Northwest Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships on Tuesday morning. But he had bigger plans for the day than just a first-place finish.
After passing for more than an hour as other competitors took their attempts, Hightower entered the meet with the bar at 7 feet, one-quarter inch and cleared the height easily on his second attempt to overtake Tyler Blakely of Spokane at 6-7½.
With the title already won, and both meet and school records cemented, Hightower declared that his next attempt would come at 7-5. Clearing the bar would mean a personal best and, most importantly, another adrenaline rush for the jumper who takes chugs of Red Bull between attempts.
“Now it’s game time!” Hightower screamed as meet officials met his request and raised the bar.
Hightower narrowly missed on the height twice before motioning the crowd to go quiet on his third try. In nearly stone-silence, Hightower leapt and scraped over the bar on his final attempt to earn his first personal-best mark in almost two years.
“When I cleared 7-5, I promise you, I almost started crying,” Hightower said. “I know this is my last meet with Lane. ... It’s a good feeling to go out like this.”
“This team atmosphere ... I don’t think I could get another team as close as this.”
Hightower’s jump was the fifth-best by an American athlete this season at any level and tied for the second best in the nation by a college athlete.
His jump also puts him in a favorable position to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Hightower’s performance was the highlight of the day for a Lane team that won its fourth consecutive NWAC title. The Titans finished with 275 points to top the Community Colleges of Spokane, which scored 202.
Lane’s Grant Shurtliff, a Thurston graduate, finished as the high-point scorer with 38 points in five events.
The Titans and Sasquatch were neck-and-neck for much of the meet until Lane pulled away by winning the 100, 200 and 400 meters, as well as the 400 hurdles in a span of three hours. Rashad Swank-Jones won the 200 in 21.43 seconds, and led a sweep of the top four spots for the Titans. Swank-Jones also won the 100 (10.68) and Cornelious Berry won the 400 (48.01).
Lane’s Michael Capri finished second in the 400 (49.02), won the 400 hurdles (53.29) and anchored Lane’s winning 4x400 relay team.
Former Sheldon standout Ben Harter won the 5,000 in 15:01.65.
The Lane women finished second 209½ points, just shy of Spokane with 215. Kylee O’Connor scored points in six events and was named Outstanding Track Athlete of the meet, Rubie Cordey scored a meet-high 38 points and anchored Lane’s first place 4x100 and 4x400 relay crews.
Another former Sheldon standout, sophomore Danielle Girard picked up victories in the 1,500 (4:52.40) and 800 (2:17.70) less than 2 hours apart. She finished second in the 1,500 last season.