Until his sophomore year at W.F. West High School, Colby White played baseball each spring, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Brandon, who now pitches for Washington State University.
Like Brandon, Colby also played basketball for the Bearcats under their coach and dad, Chris White. He thought track and field might be a better sport to keep his conditioning at a high level for hoops.
He was right. Sprint work made him faster for summer basketball and competing in jumps increased his number of dunks during the regular season.
“I could really tell the difference, I was a lot more explosive,” the 6-foot-5 senior said.
But the sport he picked up just to do it has become the one that White does best. He won the Class 2A state high jump last year with a leap of 6-feet, 7-inches and placed in the top six in both the long jump and triple jump. As his final postseason approaches, White still hopes to eclipse the 24-year-old W.F. West high jump mark of 6-8.
Autumn Ledgerwood, in her 13th season as the Bearcats’ head coach, can’t help but get emotional describing how much she values White as a role model for her own son, now in the sixth grade.
“In terms of scoring points for the team, he’s obviously one of our best,” she said. “It’s more about him having success and paving the way for his teammates. Kids see him do something and they know it’s possible.”
White also leads by more than example. With assistant coach Rob Sande bouncing between the high jump and pole vault pits, White will step in to deliver advice for his teammates.
“It comes naturally to me,” he said.
Three other Bearcat boys, including sophomore Carter McCoy and freshman Seth Hoff, have PRed at 5-8 this season. W.F. West girls hold four of the top 10 marks in the 2A Evergreen Conference this season.
“That’s one of the really cool things about Colby, how he loves coaching and mentoring the kids coming up behind him. His passion really comes through,” Ledgerwood said.
White came out for track his sophomore season thinking he was a sprinter and javelin thrower, but hasn’t competed in a running event since relays that first season and has only thrown the javelin in one meet.
Once introduced to the jumping events, he knew where he belonged.
He reached the state meet in the high jump right away, finishing well back in the pack in 2017 with a mark of 6-feet. Last season was a different story, as he won the high jump, turned in a career best long jump of 21-6.5 at districts and went on to finish fourth at state while claiming sixth in the triple jump at state in 42-11.25.
His PR in the triple is 43-7, established at last season’s renewal of the unofficial area all-classifications championships, the Bob Shaner Invitational at Tumwater.
This season, he leads the 2A Evergreen Conference in each of the jumps and is ranked statewide in all three: Second in the high jump at 6-6, a quarter of an inch behind leader Haden Hicks, a Prosser sophomore, tied for fourth in the long jump at 21-3 and seventh in the triple jump at 43-4.5.
“I haven’t quite figured out the triple jump yet,” he said. “One of my transitions is still more of a step than a jump.”
High jump remains White’s main event.
He’s confident he can compete against Hicks, and seniors Alexander Bishop of Woodland and Taino Ferdinand of Burlington-Edison, who both have season’s bests of 6-5, when and if they all collide at state.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll get our school record in the next few weeks,” he said. “It’s difficult during the regular season because I’m jumping against myself most of the time.”
Ledgerwood said one reason White has yet to equal his 6-7 best from a year ago is that, once assured of winning a meet, he has often skipped upward to try the school record height.
“He has patience and he’s gotten better at controlling his physicality,” she said. “He understands the event better. He knows when to wait and when to go at it full gear. There’s a lot more to it than people realize.”
White has become a student of the event, attending clinics and watching instructional videos from Olympic athletes. When he joins his brother at Washington State next fall, he sees more improvement ahead as he sheds the long jump and triple jump to focus on the vertical.
“I know what I need to do to get better, but at the high school level I still have to do three events,” he said. “In college, I can isolate on the high jump.”
Said Ledgerwood, “I definitely think the potential is there for Brandon. He’s still got a lot of improvement he can make.