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Fairmont’s Heinze looks to market jumping skills

UP, UP & AWAY — Fairmont standout Josh Heinze goes airborne during a horizontal leap last spring on the Fairmont High School campus. The Cardinals’ senior co-captain enters this season with the top two distances in Section 2A in both the long jump and triple jump. Unfortunately, Heinze may not get the chance to compete if the statewide shutdown extends beyond the current May 4 deadline created by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

FAIRMONT — Josh Heinze had his sights set on literally making a run — and hop, skip and jump — this spring at a track & field scholarship offer to South Dakota State University.

Fairmont’s senior co-captain stepped onto Bob Bonk Track during the original first day of practice — March 9 — with the best returning distances in Section 2A in both the long jump (20 feet, 5 inches) and triple jump (40-11 1/2).

Heinze had utilized his 4-month layoff between the high school football season and the track & field campaign to resculpt his muscular 190 pounds into a leaner physique.

“He (Heinze) really trimmed down a few pounds and redefined his muscle mass during the offseason,” said Cardinals’ head football coach and track & field jumps mentor Mat Mahoney. “To be honest, he’s worked harder than anyone I’ve seen during the winter months.

“I had a good feeling that he was on the edge of a breakout track & field season this spring.”

So how did Heinze achieve his transformation?

“Since football season, I cut back on sweets, stopped drinking soda, ate smaller portions at meal time, ran for conditioning and did a lot of jumping workouts that Mr. Mahoney gave me,” said Heinze. “My goals for 2020 — in the long jump, I wanted to get the school record that’s at 22-9 1/4, while in the triple jump I wanted to break 43 feet since the top two guys in the section each cleared that to qualify for state last year.

“I figured if I could accomplish those goals this season, I’d be able to market myself to SDSU for a chance to compete in track & field.”

Heinze has taken the first step toward achieving his collegiate goal, having been accepted at the Brookings, South Dakota-based university. He plans to major in either environmental sciences or mechanical engineering, but he might have to use persuasive speech skills to convince SDSU head men’s track & field coach Rod DeHaven or associate head coach Eric Hanenberger, who works with the program’s jumpers, to give him an opportunity to try out if the rest of the Minnesota prep spring season is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m feeling bad for him, already being denied the first eight meets of our track season due to the statewide shutdown caused by the coronavirus,” said Mahoney. “Now, it’s looking like we could potentially miss the entire season, leaving him without any numbers to present to the SDSU coaches, except for what he accomplished toward the latter stages of last season.”

The four-year track & field letterwinner’s horizontal distances a year ago generated numerous key points in helping power the Cardinals to another outstanding season overall.

Heinze struck gold in both the triple jump and long jump on the strength of his season-best marks of 40-11 1/2 and 20-5, respectively, during the 2019 Sentinel Relays invitational in Fairmont on May 3. His individual efforts helped the host Cardinals regain the Sentinel Relays’ Class AA team championship.

“When I swept both of my jumps at the Sentinel Relays, I knew I was beginning to get back to my old form before I broke my arm,” said Heinze.

Indeed. Heinze, a two-time Sentinel All-Area and two-time all-district defensive football selection, actually suffered the injury during the second week of the 2018 prep football campaign, but didn’t realize the severity of it at the time.

“Looking back, I actually broke my wrist against Jordan and ended up playing the rest of the season, all the way to the (Class AAA) state championship game, with it,” said Heinze. “I waited for the football season to end to have surgery, but wound up with a cast on my arm for the whole track season.

“I had one (cast) that went past my biceps for the first half of the track season. Once the doctors replaced it with one that just went from my wrist and up my forearm, my numbers starting going up.”

Heinze captured first place in the 100-meter dash (12.1) and triple jump (40-7) to complement a second-place showing in the long jump (20-0 1/2) to help guide Fairmont to the Sub-Section 5 team crown.

Unfortunately for Heinze, the sectional meet proved too big of a hurdle to clear.

“I didn’t mark on my first two long jumps, so I had to back up on my approach and play it safe to mark on my third jump,” said Heinze. “The top two triple jumpers both cleared 43 (feet), so those were tough distances to reach even on a good day.”

Hence, Heinze used his performance at last spring’s sectional as motivation to fine-tune his body for his senior track & field campaign.

“I’m still hopeful that maybe we’ll be able to get back to the track on May 4 or maybe the governor will extend the track season into the summer months,” said an optimistic and hopeful Heinze.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him (Heinze), and of course, everyone else, in practice everyday if we’re allowed back out on the track here in a couple of weeks,” said Mahoney. “He’s explosive off the board and usually attains really good height on his jumps. It’d be disheartening if a guy who’s worked as hard as he has doesn’t get one last chance at displaying his skills.

“Hopefully, the SDSU coaches will give him a look and give him a chance to prove himself at the next level.”

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