Turns out there just might be a limit to the sound advice of experiencing as much of high school as possible.
Damali Britton at least put it to a test.
The Desert Vista senior track athlete is about as well-rounded of a student athlete as one can be, as she was involved in 12 activities last year while maintaining a high academic standard.
Britton loved every minute of it, but admittedly became spread too thin at times. Entering her senior year, and wanting to leave her mark, Britton put more focus on just being an athlete.
“I was in clubs and school plays, but I knew I had to focus on this year and dial it back,” said Britton, who is still involved in six extra-curricular activities. “Now I have time to breathe and don’t have to rush from practice to the next thing.
“I like to have a lot on my plate, but I needed to get better at focusing on one thing.”
Britton set the school record in the triple jump on March 21 at the 74th annual Chandler Rotary when she finished second with an effort of 36 feet and 8 inches, breaking the mark of 36-3 set last year by Sarah Dennard.
“She has been coming on ever since the summer when she was at the U.S. Junior Nationals,” Thunder girls coach Cassandra Cline-McKenzie said. “We were using a six-step approach, but moved her back to an eight-step for Chandler and she broke the record. We are working on her speed and her landing, but each phase is where it needs to be.”
Britton hit her top mark on her first jump at the Rotary, which was a good test for the general theory of clearing your mind before every attempt.
“It felt good and natural,” she said. “I knew I went pretty far but when they said (the distance) I couldn’t believe it. I was happy to get it, but I knew I had three to six more jumps so I had to get it out of your head.
“You are only as good as your next jump.”
What Cline-McKenzie liked most about it was the fact that it cemented that idea that Britton would really take off if she had focused solely on track.
“I really saw her turn the corner at the end of last year,” Cline-McKenzie said. “She grew more mentally than athletically. She really got a feel for it and where she was and how to adjust.
“I told her if we got her to slow down from last year and get rid of some of the distractions she would reach a new level.”
While competing, Britton, who finished eighth at state last season, has already moved on because she still hasn’t reached her season goal, but at the same time she will always remember finally setting the mark.
“It sounds weird since it is something I’ve wanted since my freshman year, but I’ve already forgot about it kind of because I only got it by (a few) inches,” she said. “I am more focused on my season goal of 37-2 so that’s where my focus is at.”
Instead of letting the school record go to her head Britton let it go to her heart as she remembered her first jump coach Becky Matthews, who was a math and track coach at Altadeña Middle School before giving in to lung cancer on Oct. 31, 2008.
“She was one of the most influential people in my life,” Britton said. “I did it in her memory. I really took who she was to heart.”
Britton, who is also the Thunder’s top long jumper with a career best of 17-2.75, will have chances to reach her goal as the schedule continues this week with the Arcadia Invitational in California and it won’t be long before the state meet at Mesa Community College is under way.
It leaves only so much time left in Britton’s career before heading to college where she will probably be developed into a multi athlete where she could excel in the decathlon.
“She is ready for that,” Cline-McKenzie said. “We have had her throw a little, even pole vault just to get her familiar.”
Britton is unsure of her college plans — Carrollton College in Minnesota and Central College in Iowa are possibilities — but becoming a multi athlete is something she clearly is prepared to do after taking on so many activities on and away from the track.
“I’ve done every (event) but distance (runs),” she said. “It think it is something I could do. I want to keep doing the triple (it’s not part of the decathlon), but I think I’d be good at doing a little bit of everything.”
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