There's a natural spring in Connor Powers' step.
At least that's how Rod Reuer, Brainerd Warriors boys track and field coach, described his most prolific jumper. And watching the junior on the basketball court rise for rebounds, soar for a jump shot or attempt to throw down a dunk, it's easy to see Reuer's description is accurate.
But while Powers' jumping ability helped the Warriors basketball team to a successful season, the returning Class 2A State high jumper is looking for bigger things this spring.
"He's matured both physically and mentally coming into his junior year now as an athlete," Reuer said. "I think the success he had on the basketball court, coming in and knowing his role there and being a big contributor down the stretch, has carried over into track. The experience he got last year, especially making it to state in the high jump, has given him that confidence that he is a guy that belongs with the top jumpers in our conference and in our section.
"I think he has just come in with a really, really good attitude to start the season."
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- Sport: Track and field
- Events: High, long and triple jumps
- Year: Junior
- Age: 17
- Height: 6-foot-2
- Career highlight: Participating in the Class 2A State high jump competition.
- Other sports: Basketball
- Grade-point average: 3.1
- Favorite class: Entrepreneurship
- Favorite food: Pizza
- Favorite website or app: Snapchat
- Favorite restaurant: Rafferty's Pizza in Nisswa
- Future plans: Would like to participate in track and field in college, but definitely go to college
- Favorite athlete: Joe Mauer
- Parents: Jeff and Kim Powers
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That attitude showed up in Brainerd's first meet of the season, an indoor affair Saturday, March 30, at St. John's University. Powers helped Brainerd to the team win by picking up three first-place finishes.
"To start the season like that is a great confidence booster," Powers said. "Many of my teammates also got firsts there so I'm sure it's a good confidence boost for them as well. It's a great way to start a year with three wins like that."
Powers won the long jump with a 19-foot-7 effort. He added a winning 40-7.75 in the triple jump and then topped the field in the high jump with a 5-10 effort.
"I took about six jumps total before I even started high jumping," Powers said. "So I did three long jumps and three triple jumps and when I got to high jump, my legs were just gassed. I usually get over 6-feet, but I had a really tough time doing that on Saturday. I ended not getting over it, but I did get close. Your legs get super tired after a while."
Reuer and Powers are close to what should be the goal come the end of the year. Reuer believes 6-feet should be automatic for Powers in the high jump and 6-3 should be the goal.
Reuer would like to see Powers reach 42, 43 feet in the triple jump, but sees Powers being a legit 43-foot guy in that event.
For the long jump, Reuer would like to see Powers hit 21 feet.
But his coach would also like to see him run in a relay as well. And Powers is all for it.
"I'm kind of excited about it, but I just hope it doesn't affect high jump also," Powers said. "As long as it doesn't affect high jump, I'm all for it. That sounds great."
Powers surprised even himself last year by advancing to state in the high jump. He posted a 6-foot effort to finish second in the Section 8-2A finals. The then sophomore did not place at state.
"I didn't think I would make it to state that soon," Powers said. "From competition like Wayzata Invite and stuff, I didn't really see how I could make it, but that meet, I actually saw the competition and realized I had a chance for it. It was a really great experience. I hope I can get back there this year, too. That would be great."
Reuer said it was a great experience for Powers and has helped set the tone early for the junior this season
"First you get over the shock and awe of actually making it," Reuer said. "He wasn't really a favorite to get there. It just kind of happened that he had the best day of the jumpers that were at the section meet. He jumped well enough to qualify, but then when you get to the state meet, you put yourself into an arena with some pretty high-performing athletes.
"The biggest thing is observation, in that you get to see what those guys are doing. How do they warm up? How focused are they? What is their plan of attack for the day? Just seeing that is important because normally during the year that's not the case. We show up to a meet. You get into your events and then you jump and just try to do your best and we move on from there. But when you get into that state meet, it's all high pressure. You're one of 16 athletes and you watch these guys and what they do to become state champions."
Powers is determined this season. He never connected on a crowd-pleasing dunk during basketball season. His goal is to make it back to state and continue to become a prolific jumper.
"I think he's been a great leader for our jump crew," Reuer said. "He's such a likable kid. Everybody has fun with him. He's easy-going and happy-go-lucky. He's obviously our jump leader with the most experience. The majority of our jumpers right now are sophomores and freshmen who are behind him. He sets the tone of being a leader and setting the example for these younger kids.
"He's just a great kid to coach. He comes to practice every day with a smile on his face. He's having fun doing it. That's the biggest thing for all of our kids. Have fun with what we're doing. I know some days practices aren't a lot of fun, but do what you can and be coachable and have fun with your friends and have a good time doing it and that's what he brings. He has fun with what he's doing."
Other notable performances
• Brenna Deason, Girls track and field, won the 60- and 200-meter dashes and placed second in the pole vault.
• Zach Henke, boys track and field, won the 60-meter hurdles and was part of the winning 4x200 and 4x400 relays.
• Ben Renner, boys track and field, won the 200 dash and was part of the winning 4x200 and 4x400 relays.