Triple jumper Waithe earns bronze medal in El Salvador
Parkville resident and Loch Raven High School grad Steve Waithe is building quite a track and field résumé in the triple jump.
At Loch Raven High School, he claimed two state championships and competed in the Nike Indoor Nationals and New Balance Outdoor Nationals. At Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, he finished fourth in the Division II National championships this past spring.
However, nothing he has done locally or nationally compares to his accomplishments on the international scene this summer.
The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Waithe participated in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships in Spain, the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in El Salvador and the Senior Open National Championships in Trinidad and Tobago.
He represented the Trindad and Tobago (the native country of his parents) Junior National Team in Spain and El Salvador.
"I have competed against some great jumpers, but to be on the world level was eye-opening," said Waithe, 19, noting that his international opponents are already reaching comparable heights to U.S. jumpers who are "24 and 25."
The Central American and Caribbean Junior Championship games stood out the most for Waithe after posting a personal-best 52 feet, 1-inch leap against elite opponents from Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados and Grenada.
Waithe acknowledges competing at that level was somewhat daunting.
"The Caribbean and Central American countries have some of the best jumpers in the world," Waithe said. "I was a little intimidated. Usually, I am never nervous, but I had some butterflies."
Waithe also was thrilled to be competing in the IAAF World Championships after qualifying with 51-6.5 leap in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship in May.
The Parkville resident didn't fare as well in Spain, though, recording a 49-5.
"It was a dream of mine all year to make the team," Waithe said. "I really wasn't very close to making the team until May. Other people knew they were going all year. I went into the meet optimistic, but it was a learning experience because I was going against the best jumpers in the world."
Shippensburg coach Dave Osanitsch said Waithe's poise served him well.
"I was amazed when we went to the NCAA championships by his calmness," Osanitsch said. "He hadn't really been on a big stage yet, but he was very cool, calm, relaxed and confident. I think he can just build on these experiences with his attitude."
Waithe said being healthy for the international meets was important as anything else after missing most of the winter season at Shippensburg because of a hamstring injury that carried over into the spring.
"I really didn't know what I could do for a full year because I really hadn't jumped that much since my junior year of high school," Waithe said, alluding to torn foot ligaments that plagued his final season with Loch Raven. "I was doubting myself. But this summer has been great because I have been healthy, and I have gotten back to performing."
And he hopes to be performing at the Division-I level — Clemson, Auburn and Penn State are his favorites — if he decides to leave Shippensburg
"His growth has been phenomenal," Osanitsch said. "If he is ready and wants to transfer to a bigger school, we have no problem with that. If you look at his performances right now, he could easily become one of better Division I jumpers as his growth continues. He will be very sought after next year."