QUICK STUDY: Centennial junior Rylee Perkins works way into rare air as jumper

Centennial junior Rylee Perkins established the top girls long jump and triple jump marks in Arizona this month. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

From the outside, Rylee Perkins’ ascent to the top of girls long and triple jumping in a little more than two years seems like a tribute to her natural athletic ability.

But this youth gymnast did not simply show up at Centennial as an elite leaper as a freshman. She brought the work ethic of a competitive gymnast to her new sport.

“It was my whole life. I was home schooled because of it and would have practice in the morning and practice in the afternoon,” Perkins said.

Now a junior, Perkins burst out of the gate with a state-best leap of 18 feet 4 inches during the Brophy AMDG Invitational March 7.

Then there’s her new event.

Perkins picked up the triple jump this year and she’s already ranked No. 1 in the state with her mark of 38 feet, 2.5 inches.

Her gymnastics background actually translates more naturally to the triple jump.

“Her coordination on the triple comes from gymnastics. The coordination is there and the speed is there. She’s working on the technical guidance given by her coaches,” Centennial track coach Simone Terry said. “I knew she was capable of doing this. It was just a matter of time.”

But the coach is quick to point out that Perkins would not be as ahead of a normal growth curve if not for her relentless approach to practicing her new craft.

“Some people think that all this comes naturally for Rylee. But Rylee is one of the hardest workers I have on this track. When I say practice is over, she feels like it’s just getting started,” Terry said. “She works the longest hours of anyone. Because of that, we’re seeing this improvement. It didn’t just come naturally.”

Plus that triple jump standard is merely Perkins’ best of the 2019 high school season. She ended 2018 with a much bigger number against much better competition.

On Dec. 8 Perkins not only tested herself against college athletes. She beat them.

She unleashed a triple jump of 39 feet 6 inches to win at the University of Arizona All-comers meet.

“That was my first time ever trying it. I out jumped all of the college athletes,” Perkins said. “I thought I could do pretty good but I had no idea I would already placed No. 1 or No. 2 in state.”

Perkins quit gymnastics at the end of eighth grade and started track that summer.

Long jump provided the easiest transition. Perkins was used to sprinting for a distance before attempting a vault or a tumbling pass.

“It was a natural thing for me. Long jump came pretty easy,” Perkins said.

Terry said she expected the leaps to go smoothly. The coach said Perkins qualified for nationals on one of her first jumps.

But Perkins speed as a raw freshman caught her off guard.

“It surprised her that she would be a good sprinter as well. Learning some fundamentals of sprinting, like getting out of the blocks was harder,” Terry said.

Perkins placed fourth in the Division II long jump as a freshman. She said the hitch kick was the toughest aspect of long jumping to master.

She the increased her long jump distance to 18 feet 3.5 inches by the 2018 Division II state meet, and said her third place finish at state motivated her.

“I commend her for her sophomore year. Normally we see athletes struggle that year, and she maintained while she was lifting a lot more and her size increased,” Terry said.

While Terry cautioned that Perkins and the rest of the Coyotes are not training to peak at the 79th annual NIKE Chandler Rotary Invitational March 22-23, the destination meet will serve as a benchmark.

Without a doubt, she is one of the athletes already on the radar of the college recruiters in attendance.

This year 123 teams will be at Chandler, including top programs from nine other states.

“It’s a pretty big meet. The competition level is close to a college meet,” Perkins said.

In her third year as a jumper she said she is more confident in her approach and technique.

“This year every time I go up there, I feel like my mark is good and I know what I’m capable of,” Perkins said.

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