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Randolph athletes jump at chance
by Greg Talkington
(May 29) ELKINS --Anyone in the state who follows high school track and field knows the name Nathan Fields.
This high-jumping phenom has already cleared 7 feet several times in his career and the Elkins High School junior is poised to win the state Class AAA title this weekend in Charleston.
But a little farther back in the hills of Randolph County lives another high jumper who can also lay claim to being the state's best in his class.
That would be Tygarts Valley senior Joseph Bell.
His best leap of 6-4 certainly isn't close to those by Fields. But it's 2 inches more than anyone else in Class AA-A has jumped this year.
Both he and his coach, Ted Williams, think he can do better.
"I honestly believe Joseph can go 6-8 this week in Charleston," Williams said. "It's just a matter of blocking everything out."
Considering this is Bell's first year of competing in the high jump, his accomplishments are rather astounding.
"My girlfriend, Amanda Shiflett, talked me into coming out," said Bell. "She's on the track team and has the best time in the state in the 100 meters.
"I probably wouldn't have tried it if it wasn't for her."
Bell has cleared 6-7 in practice before, but hasn't been able to duplicate that in meets.
"I get a little nervous when people are watching me," the soft spoken Bell said. "But when I first started I could barely do 5-8, so I've come a long ways."
Bell is acquainted with Fields.
"We've played some summer league basketball together and he's given me some pointers, especially on how to arch my back," the 6-foot-1 Bell said. "I've always been able to jump pretty high.
"I can dunk a basketball with no problem."
Bell's success has impressed Fields.
"For no longer than he's been doing it, he's really came on strong," Fields said. "When we've been at the same meets, I've stressed the importance of arching his back just at the right time.
"That's really the key to high jumping. I know a lot of guys who could jump six inches higher if they would arch their back at the right time when they jump.
"I told Joseph we'd get together in Charleston and really talk about things. Hopefully, he'll be able to improve on his height."
Fields has been jumping for a long time, and cleared the 6-foot barrier in eighth grade. But he chose baseball his freshman year instead of track.
"That was definitely a mistake," Fields said. "I could never do as well in baseball as I'm doing in track."
Not only is the 6-foot junior the odds-on favorite in the high jump, he has an excellent chance to place in the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles.
He can dunk a basketball with either hand as he's done several times from his point guard position, where he led Elkins to the state tournament this past season. He's also the quarterback of the football team.
"He's just a natural jumper," said Elkins track coach Dave Crawford. "I just showed him some technical things and he's done the rest.
"He's really a phenomenal athlete."