Natural leaper: Peterka shows promise in first year as a high jumper
Osakis sophomore Josh Peterka impressed Lee VanNyhuis with his ability to dunk a basketball with ease this past winter season, and it got him to thinking of the spring.
VanNyhuis, an assistant for the boys basketball program and longtime head coach for the Silverstreaks track programs, could see a natural fit for Peterka on the track team.
“Great kid, works hard and a great one-foot leaper,” VanNyhuis said. “He can throw a basketball down, dunk easy and that translates well in the high jump, that one-foot jump like that. We knew coming in that if he could get the technique down he’d be really good at it.”
It took a meet or two to get a good feel for the event. Peterka cleared 5 feet, 8 inches at the Marv Meyer Invite on April 5 to take fifth place. The winning jump that day was 6 feet by Minnewaska’s Jackson Johnsrud.
VanNyhuis said bar awareness and where it was at compared to his body was the most difficult challenge for Peterka at first. Through repetition he figured it out, and rather quickly. At 6 feet 4 inches with a long and lean frame, Peterka matched that 6 foot jump for the first time at a meet in Wadena on April 14 to take second place.
“At the beginning of the season, [VanNyhuis] said if I could be a 6 foot jumper that would be good,” Peterka said from Osakis’ home quadrangular last Tuesday. “I thought he was crazy when he said it, but I did it. Now I’m going for a school record, which is 6 feet 4 inches and that’s the state meet qualifier, too.”
Peterka has won the high jump in the last four meets with jumps of 5 feet 8 inches twice and two more 6-foot jumps in Holdingford and at St. John’s.
“I like it now that I’m getting better at it,” Peterka said. “It’s just not fun if you’re not good at something. You have to work for things, so I did have to work for it, but it’s starting to come naturally now. It’s becoming instinct.”
Better technique has come, and the results have followed.
“He’s jumped 6 feet, is on the state honor roll as a sophomore first year coming out, so that’s a really good thing,” VanNyhuis said.
Peterka has set the goal of breaking a school record, but he says he hasn’t thought much about how high he could go in the high jump.
“I’m just kind of taking it day-by-day, doing the best I can every single meet,” he said.
It’s still so early in the process and there’s still a lot to learn.
His coach knows that too, but after some early success as a sophomore, it’s hard not to think about the potential he has if he sticks with it in the coming years.
“I don’t know,” VanNyhuis said of Peterka’s ceiling in the event. “I don’t want to make a prediction like that, but I’d say I think that a good goal for him would be to maybe break a school record, maybe make it to state possibly this year or next year. I think with more strength and practice he can be really good at this. He’s a natural.”