Three weeks into Steven Crafts’ junior season he approached Blaine track and field coach Carey Bacon with a goal personifying the long jumper’s boldness.
“Last year he came up to me early in the season and said, ‘I’m going to break the school record,’” Bacon explained in a phone interview. “I said, ‘OK, that’s a good goal. Let’s see what you can do.’”
Carey couldn’t help but be impressed with Crafts’ guarantee, and it’s that type of assurance the Blaine senior owns for his, well, craft, that has helped him become arguably the top long jumper in Whatcom County.
And sure enough, Crafts did break the school record. The old record of 21 feet, 3 inches had stood since the 1960’s, but the Blaine standout took it down with a jump of 21-04.5 during last spring’s Northwest Conference Championships.
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During the offseason Crafts had a rare encounter with the previous Blaine record holder. He was at Pipeline Fields in Blaine watching his younger brother’s baseball game when his mom called him over to a group she was talking with. Out of complete happenstance, Crafts mom discovered the man she was talking to posted the old record.
Crafts said it was a neat experience.
“He said it was really cool,” Crafts said in a phone interview. “He said he’s going to come and watch our home meets.”
Crafts matched his record-breaking jump during the Class 1A Tri-District Finals before posting a personal best of 22-00.0 at the Class 1A State Championships. The mark captured himself a second place medal.
This year Crafts has bigger plans.
“Well, my goal last year was to set the school record for the long jump,” Crafts explained in a phone interview. “I was a foot away from the Washington state 2A record. That is my main goal for this year.”
It’s quite the dream, but Crafts has shown the ability to accomplish what he sets his mind to.
Early on in his Blaine career he established himself as a hard worker in the weight room. That’s where, Crafts said, he’s been able to generate his explosiveness.
While he owns the athletic ability to excel at the long jump, Bacon said his technique has elevated him to another level.
“What he’s got that makes him a good jumper is his short-term speed,” said the Blaine coach. “He gets in there and gets really high in the long jump. He has some hops. The other thing that is amazing is he hits his mark. He’s unbelievably accurate. ... He figured out how to make his approach consistent, and that’s where his big improvement was.”
Crafts’ rise to being one of the best long jumpers in the area hasn’t always been easy. He’s had to deal with a series of chronic injuries.
After completing his freshman season, Crafts was unable to finish his sophomore year. Even during his strong performances last year, Bacon said his health had to be constantly monitored.
“It’s interesting, he’s had to deal with several injuries, and last year we really had to nurse him along,” Bacon said. “He wanted to jump a lot more then he ended up doing, because we didn’t have him jump as much.”
An undiagnosed back injury, Crafts said, has been the biggest medical road block, although this year the pain has been much more manageable.
Even through injury, Crafts improved his first three seasons.
His best jump as a freshman was an 18-11.25 at a sub-district meet. In limited action his sophomore year he jumped a 19-01.00 before recording his personal best last season.
Crafts credited former Blaine track and standout Isaiah Jackson for introducing him to jumping his freshman year. Crafts did high jump, and Jackson told him he should try long jump because the two go hand-in-hand.
This year Crafts may be having the effect Jackson had on him with younger athletes, as now its Crafts turn to serve a leadership role. He’ll certainly give Blaine’s younger jumpers a strong role model to emulate.