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Tiger star's feat a defining act in W.Va. prep athletics

by Matt Harvey


(May 30) Nathan Fields' high jump of 7 feet, 3 inches on Friday night will go down as one of the defining moments in the history of the state high school track meet.

That's a no-brainer.

But I'll go a step more and say it's one of the defining moments of state high school sports, period.

Before Fields' leap, nobody had even reached 7 feet during the pressure of the state meet.

The best previous jump had come last year, by Class AA-A Magnolia's Mike Barrows. He jumped 6-10.

Fields even acknowledged the publicity was bothering him coming into the meet.

Yet he coolly cleared the bar by so much he probably could have made 7-6 if he'd been trying for that mark.

Think about 7-3 for a moment.

A lot of college jumpers can't clear that under pressure. Barrows' jump was nearly half a foot less.

And the second-place finisher in Class AAA on Friday was a whopping 11 inches shy of the mark.

And Fields is only a junior.

In just about a decade covering state high school sports, I've heard of few feats as amazing.

In track, I can think of just one: Athens distance runner Mikey Cox setting the AA-A record for the metric mile at 4 minutes, 17.54 seconds.

Like Fields, Cox had no one to push him that day.

Yet Cox, gasping for air as he crossed the tape, stayed intensely focused.

Fields is showing that same kind of concentration. Because of that, I'm betting he can jump higher as a senior. I'll say 7-6, maybe 7-7, and won't even be surprised at 7-8, although handling the pressure next year will really take work.

Fields certainly has a chance to have an excellent college career.

And maybe -- this is a very big maybe, because a lot of factors will be in play between now and then -- Fields can one day join Fairmont's Mary Lou Retton and St. Albans' Randy Barnes as West Virginia success stories in the Olympics.

But even if none of that happens, nobody can take away his place in West Virginia sports lore Ñ May 29, 1998, the day he raised the bar.