Ethan Toy didn’t always love the long jump, but the Guyer junior was always good at it.
As a seventh-grader at Harpool, Toy won the the long jump and triple jump at the district meet while also competing in relays.
After a season on Guyer’s freshman football team as a cornerback, Toy finally decided to go all-in and become a track athlete, and the results have proven it was a good move.
“Really, I was just good at it,” Toy said. “I was never too mentally strong back in middle school, so I had to be good at something in order to like it. I won and just figured I’d keep doing it.”
Now Toy is set to compete at the state’s highest level when he jumps Saturday at the UIL state track and field meet at Austin’s Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Toy qualified for the meet as a wild card following the four regional meets. The top two qualifiers from each region advance to state along with the athlete with the best non-qualifying jump in the state.
Toy’s mark of 22 feet, 9 1/2 inches secured third place at the Class 6A Region I meet at Texas-Arlington. The jump would’ve placed him second in Region II and Region III and won the Region IV meet.
Guyer head coach Russ Phillips delivered the state meet news to Toy via text message, about six hours after he was finished competing.
It was the next step in redemption for Toy, who tore his hamstring on a run-through leading up to competition in last year’s Class 4A Region I meet. This year, Toy won the District 5-6A meet with a season-best jump of 23-5, which would rank him second among all state meet qualifiers, and won the area meet with a leap of 23 1/2.
At the regional meet, his nerves — admittedly always an issue for Toy — got the best of him.
Toy scratched on his first two attempts, meaning he had just one more attempt to make it through to the final eight from the original 16 competitors.
“We knew what he could do. We just wanted to get to the finals to get three more jumps,” Phillips said. “He busted that 21-9, and that’s pretty average for him but it was good enough to get those next three jumps.
“He’s guaranteed six jumps this time [at state]. We just have to make them quality.”
Quality jumps are something Toy strives for and puts in a ton of work to accomplish.
While many long jumpers at the high school level might just run as fast as they can and power their way through a jump before simply landing on their feet and exiting the pit, Toy has the art of the jump down to a T.
“Track and field, as a sport, is just so basic,” Toy said. “You’re just running and you’re just jumping. You have to break it down to a level that is so technical — the degrees in your arms when you run or the angle in your knee when you jump to get that extra inch.”
Toy, who has received interest from programs like North Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M, said if he can do that this weekend in Austin he’s going to leave happy with the final result.
He’s added one more twist to his approach, moving up from eight steps on the runway to six to ensure he doesn’t slow down at the board — trying to find those few extra inches that could be the difference between a medal and disappointment.
“I feel like if I go out there and do what I can do, I can win,” Toy said. “There’s no question about it. I have to put it all together. I was able to do it at district, and at area I just tried to power through it. At regionals, I just wasn’t there. The nerves got to me because of what happened last year [with his hamstring injury]. I’ve gone 24 feet before but scratched by a fraction of an inch. I can do it.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.