Senior high jumper hopes to clear 7 feet in the high jump and lead Sarasota High to a state title

SARASOTA

The target looms 14 inches above the head of Jaasiel Torres.

The 5-foot-10, 145-pound senior from Sarasota High has already conquered 13½ of those inches in achieving a personal best of 6 feet, 11½ inches in the high jump. He just needs the length of an eyelash to clear an even 7 feet.

“I’ve been pushing and working hard all season, hoping I can break 7 feet,” said Torres, the Class 4A defending state champion in the high jump. “If I can break 7, then I’m definitely going for 7-2. That’s definitely been my goal this year.”

Torres and the rest of his teammates begin their postseason Tuesday at the Class 4A-District 8 Track and Field Championships at Seminole High, the first step in trying to qualify as many Sailors as possible for the state meet to be held at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville May 4-5.

While Torres will continue to search for new heights in the high jump, he will also be all over the place competing in other events. He has scored points for the Sailors in the long jump, triple jump, 300 intermediate hurdles, 400-meter run, 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay during the course of the regular season.

Unfortunately for the Sailors, athletes can only participate in four events at the district, region and state meets. Torres has been a points machine.

“For states I’m going to be doing all of my events — triple, jump, long jump, 4x100 relay and high jump,” Torres said. “I’ll do whatever I can to get points for the team. I’m going to do everything within my power to help the team get as many points as it can so we can win states. I think we have a chance.”

Torres isn’t the only versatile Sailor. The team can count on points from Charles Ward in the long jump, triple jump and sprint events. Defending Class 4A state cross country champion Ben Hartvigsen can compete at a state-caliber level in any race from 800 meters to 3,200 meters.

“It’s a good time to be out there with them,” Torres said. “They’re all my friends. It’s not like I’m by myself. It’s good to have them there supporting me. I’m supporting them, and we’re helping each other out.”

Sarasota track coach Ed Sera has worked closely with Torres throughout his career.

“I’ve been coaching track in high school for 15 years and I’ve never had a better athlete,” Sera said. “He’s a great kid from a great family. He’s been a good leader on our team.

“He’s not just a high jumper, he’s a great athlete. He can qualify for states in all of his events. He definitely has a shot. That’s the goal.”

Torres paid the price over the offseason.

“It’s a lot of box jumps and a lot of weights,” Torres said. “It strengthens you and helps your knees. It takes a lot of conditioning to stay in shape.

“It’s a lot of form drills. That’s for sure. You’ve got to get your form right to be able to jump.”

Torres will spend a lot more time at Hodges Stadium in the future. He has accepted a track and field scholarship from the North Florida Ospreys.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for a long time,” Torres said. “I know where I’m going to college. Now I can just try to do my best. It feels great.”