Conway leaps to NEC gold

HJ pic

Nick and Hunter Conway pose with the latest addition to Nick’s medal collection at the NEC Indoor Championships, Staten Island, N.Y. on Feb. 19. (Photo by Tammy Conway)

Lori Chase
Mar. 3, 2016

Former Port Allegany High School standout Nick Conway soared to new heights at the recent Northeast Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships, winning the NEC high jump title with a new personal best of 2.02 meters (6 feet, 7.5 inches) on Feb. 19 at Staten Island, N.Y.

The Saint Francis University junior needed every centimeter of that leap to claim the gold, after he and top seed Dashawn Putman (Central Connecticut State) had both cleared 2.01m (6′ 7″) to force a tiebreaker.

“It was a whirlwind of thoughts when they announced I had to compete in the jump-off,” Conway wrote in a message to the Reporter Argus. “They previously had told me I won….then recalculated and determined the jump-off had to happen. Initially I was not too excited. I was coming off of a groin strain that removed me from practice for 1.5 weeks leading up to the championship meet, on top of me not jumping in practice — maybe three times in practice all year. So I was the clear-cut underdog against the number one seed.

“But that is where the beauty of sports set in. To be a true champion you have to rise to the occasion.”

At least one person at the Ocean Breeze Track & Field Athletic Complex already had a good feeling about the outcome, though — Port assistant coach Hunter Conway, watching from the stands with his wife, Tammy.

“My father has been my coach since I started track. Things don’t change when he comes to my competitions; I still glance up to get his feedback on how to alter my approach after each jump,” Nick wrote. “It’s funny because my father always calls me and gives me a little pre-meet info on my competition, and he said I would win the high jump earlier this week. But I figured he just had high hopes, considering I hadn’t even practiced.”

“I knew he stood a good chance, and he was motivated,” Hunter said. “So it was a perfect storm, so to speak.”

Conway was one of four jumpers to succeed at 2.01m, including two of his Red Flash teammates, but he and Putman did so in the fewest attempts to move on to the tiebreaker. With the bar reset at 2.04m (6′ 8.25”), both missed on their first try.

“I was slightly defeated at that point,” Nick wrote, “but looking to the stands I could see just how excited my father was at this opportunity. Feeding off my dad’s energy, I altered my approach slightly.”

Accelerating toward his target, he launched himself into the air, and then …

“When I jumped, I swear my eyes were closed,” he wrote. “The stands erupted with cheers and I realized I made it. After celebrating, I jogged to the opposite end of the track and prayed the three-hour competition would go no further.”

Of course, there was at least one more jump left, with Putman getting a chance to match Conway’s height and send the competition to another round.

“I did not watch (Putman) jump,” Nick wrote. “I simply listened to the crowd.”

Once again, their reaction told him all he needed to know.

“It was a surreal feeling to win,” he concluded. “I felt my parents’ trips to all my meets were rewarded with this underdog win. Above all, it’s a blessing to be able to compete on this stage and have my parents right there watching.”

The conference title was the second for Conway, who won the 60-meter hurdles at last season’s indoor championships. He placed fifth this year, turning in a time of 8.24 seconds to qualify in that event as well as the high jump for this weekend’s IC4A/ECAC Championships at Boston University.

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