SportsFource examines the 'science of the high jump' - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports


SportsFource examines the 'science of the high jump'

MOC-Floyd Valley's Alexis Conaway is the top high jumper in Iowa. MOC-Floyd Valley's Alexis Conaway is the top high jumper in Iowa.
ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - In the 1960's, Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump with what's now known as the "Fosbury Flop."  More than five decades later, MOC-Floyd Valley senior Alexis Conaway has perfected it and is now chasing her fourth straight Class 3A state title.

"The first time I tried high jump was in middle school," said Conaway. "I actually tried long jump first and then our high jump coach pulled me and said try that and I've been doing it ever since."

"Her best in middle school was 5'8" at a meet," said MOC-FV track coach Joel Bundt. "So we knew we had somebody coming in that had some jumps. If you ever watch a tip-off in basketball, you know she can elevate pretty quickly."

It's Conaway's athleticism along with near flawless technique that allows her to excel.

"There is a lot of different things to focus on," said Conaway. "From the approach to the actual jump. When I go up I focus on getting as much power as I can."

The highest Conaway has jumped is 5-feet, 10-inches. Just how much power does it take on average for Conaway to clear a bar?  To break it all down, SportsFource teamed up with Assistant Professor of Physics at Northwestern College, Dr. Frank Bentrem.

"When Alexis approaches the takeoff she has to do so with just the right amount speed," said Bentrem. "She can't go too fast or too slow, so she can generate the maximum power during her take off."

From her first step to liftoff, Conway approaches the bar at an estimated 12 miles per hour.

"When Alexis launches herself into the air, she generates an incredible six horse power," added Bentrem. "Because of the power of the launch, she momentarily feels 3.5 times her body weight. That's 3.5 G-forces."

But, as Dr. Bentrem explains, it's the take off and the Fosbury Flop that allows her to reach new heights.

"Using the technique, can only gain you a few inches, so the key is in the takeoff.

And, the six-horse power she generates?

"That's what allows to clear such a high bar," said Bentrem.

Conaway's high jump title defense will begin May 22nd at the Iowa high school state track meet in Des Moines.
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