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Glacier senior Kauffman leads AA in triple jump

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | May 11, 2022 11:55 PM

There was a time when Tate Kauffman was strictly an 800-400 runner, and it was fine. Not superlative, but fine.

“My sister (Makenna) was a distance runner,” Kauffman said this week. “I figured I’d try it out. I was decent at it — I tried it out my freshman year and I somehow made divisionals.

“Sophomore year we were starting off strong, I was getting in all my workouts, and then a week in Covid shut everything down.”

Several months later Glacier track coach Arron Deck was taking roll in a PE class when an errant basketball bounced by. Kauffman grabbed it and dunked it, and Deck made an informed decision.

“That’s when he told me, ‘You’re jumping this year,’ “ Kauffman said. “I was like, ‘OK, coach. I’m down for it. I won’t have to run anymore.’ “

Now he just flies.

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“My philosophy has always been to let freshmen pick and choose,” Deck, now in his 14th and final season as Glacier’s boys coach, said. “He was pretty comfortable running the 8 and 4, and I wasn’t complaining because it’s usually hard to find kids to run those events.”

Then came that fateful PE class. On April 20 of last year Kauffman triple jumped for the first time in competition: He marked 38 feet, 9 inches.

By April 30 he’d reached 41 feet; then in May he went 42-7 to finish second at the Western AA Divisionals, and 42-8 a week later to again place second at the State AA meet.

“It surprised me last year for sure,” he said. “I hopped into it halfway through the year and ended up being pretty good. This year I decided not to play basketball, and I really just focused on getting explosive, basically. Getting bouncy.”

Working with strength coach Colton Harkins, Kauffman set a PR in his second meet of the season, on April 19, and he leads all of Class AA at 44-7.

“Just an insane athlete,” said teammate Jake Turner. “He puts in the work during school and after school. I’ve always played basketball with him, and he’s always had that insane bounce.”

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Kauffman was now converted: A solid receiver for the Glacier football team, he decided track and field took precedence over the gridiron and hardcourt.

“I probably wouldn’t be playing as much,” he said of basketball. “I just figured I might as well focus on my main sport.” It paid off: In April he visited Carroll College, was offered a scholarship and took it.

Now all that’s left is a home dual today with Columbia Falls, then a divisional stocked full of Kalispell triple jumpers and the State AA in Butte.

The Wolfpack has made noise this season, winning the Swede Dahlberg meet and last week’s Archie Roe Invitational. The Pack has lost depth in the sprints (Jeff Lillard has been out with an illness) and gained it in the jumps (John Pyron, a senior trying the sport for the first time, broke 43 feet in the triple at Archie Roe). Jackson Hensley, a junior, swept the 100 and 200 Saturday and was named Outstanding Male Athlete. Sam Ells is a threat to sweep the distances.

“This year we’ve all come in ready to go,” Kauffman said. “Track season is normally like, everybody’s kind of messing around. But this season I feel the team has bonded really well.

“It gets me excited for State. Hopefully we can take care of business there, too. That’s the goal.”

It helps that Kauffman found his footing, in his signature event.

“It was definitely a smart choice,” Turner, Glacier’s threat to win the 400, said with a smile. “He doesn’t want to run now, that’s for sure.”