UMATILLA - On one good leg, Matt Perren jumped higher than most other boys.
Minutes before track and field action started March 20 at the Umatilla Icebreaker, the Enterprise High School sophomore doubted he would be active. Playing a pickup basketball game the previous night, Perren developed soreness around his left knee. Once competitions began at Umatilla, he would have been satisfied with modest heights. "I'll be happy if I get 5-8," he cracked.
But when his event finished, Perren had cleared the bar at 6 feet 2. He beat his personal best by four inches. His mark ranked second at the Icebreaker. It was an inch short of the Enterprise record. And it qualified him for the Meet of Champions, an exclusive competition April 18 in Salem.
"When events started," Perren said, "I didn't think I could do anything. I figured I'd just rest (the knee) and come back another week. But once I got the first three jumps out of the way, I actually felt fine. It must have been an adrenaline rush."
Perren's technique stressed the right leg, the healthy limb. Towards the latter half of his freshman season, he began jumping off his left. Also a competitor in the pole vault and an avid basketball player, he wanted to avoid shortening one side by over-working it. Training for this year, he prepared to switch back to the right. However, he expected to delay his first meet. The night before the Icebreaker, he played at the school's basketball court. The next morning, on a three-hour drive to Umatilla, he felt soreness in his left knee. He informed coach Dan Moody he would attend the meet, but only to support his teammates.
Quickly, Perren withdrew from the pole vault. He took Ibuprofen, a mild pain medication and then cautiously practiced the high jump. Eventually, he decided to enter that competition. As rounds passed, the number of boys gradually dwindled. But Perren remained in contention. At 5-10, he topped his personal record. The 6-2 bar eliminated Pilot Rock's David Thurmond, Grant Union's Jimmy Cook and Ione's Clay Morter. But Perren successfully cleared it, leaving him and the eventual champion: Tavin Hurley of Joseph High
"I started warming up, jumping to see how much I could push it, but it didn't feel good at all," Perren said. "After each of the early jumps - that 5-foot, 5-foot-6 range - my knee was killing me. But then I stopped thinking about it. And I know I could have done the 6-3. It was right there. My form was a little off. I just need a little more practice. Once I get that, jumping 6-3 won't be a problem. I'm really looking more at 6-4."
In addition to Perren's surprise success, other Enterprise boys performed well. Senior Patrick Baird exploded to a first place finish in the 800-meter run. Most of the two laps, he hid around fourh-place in the pack of runners. But when the race came down to its final quarter, Baird blazed to the front and easily won by more than six seconds. He completed the first lap in just over 66 seconds; the second lap in about 61. Meanwhile, junior Skyler Willis set new personal records in two events. He made a triple jump of 34 feet, 11.5 inches. In doing so, however, he also injured his back. But he later threw javelin and scored a 141.
Next, Enterprise athletes will go April 3 to Milton-Freewater where they will compete at the Carnival of Speed on the track at McLoughlin High.