Marble Falls High School junior Kason O’Riley during a practice. He is currently the state’s co-leader in the high jump at the high school level after clearing 6 feet 10 inches at the Copperas Cove Bulldawg Relays on February 27. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
If Marble Falls High School junior Kason O’Riley wants to jump over your head, he can probably do it.
Unless, you’re a towering 6 feet 11 inches. Even then, he can get pretty close.
O’Riley, a Marble Falls high jumper, cleared 6 feet 10 inches at the Copperas Cove Bulldawg Relays on February 27. It ties him as the best high school jumper in Texas so far this year. The only other Texas high school athlete who has cleared that height is Houston Langham Creek senior Riley Foreman, a University of Texas at Austin signee.
As he reflected on the February 27 jump, O’Riley described his approach and what he did in the offseason to get ready.
After several jumpers started the Copperas Cove competition, the ever-climbing bar eventually whittled the number down to two, including O’Riley.
Both jumpers had cleared 6 feet 8 inches, and O’Riley knew his moment had come. Officials edged the bar up to 6 feet 10 inches.
O’Riley took his stance and began clapping his hands to get the crowd involved and him “hyped.” Then, he “cleared my mind of everything.”
“There were so many people,” he said. “It was a really good atmosphere.”
As he approached the bar, O’Riley took his power step and launched himself into the air. Once off the ground, he contorted his body to place his back toward the bar and then lifted his hips and kicked up his legs so nothing touched the bar.
“It felt like a great jump,” O’Riley said.
The high jumper’s confidence was higher than the bar, and he asked it to be set at 7 feet. But O’Riley clipped the bar on each attempt.
Still, O’Riley saw the results at Copperas Cove as confirmation that his hard work in the offseason paid off. He ended the 2019 season at the Class 5A state track meet in May, failing to clear 6 feet 8 inches on three attempts. He cleared the height a few weeks prior while winning the Region III meet in the high jump.
O’Riley finished the state meet tied for fourth place after bowing out at 6-6.
Instead of wallowing in disappointment, O’Riley got to work, vowing to improve in two areas: mental and physical strength.
At the state meet, he realized he rushed through his attempts. He has stopped doing that.
“I needed to calm my nerves,” O’Riley said. “I was jittery. This year, I learned to focus a lot more during my jumps. I listen to my music. I learned to hype myself up.”
He also decided to only start his jumps in a competition when the bar has reached 6 feet 4 inches instead of beginning at the opening height of 5 feet 4 inches.
“It saves me energy and helps me clear higher heights,” he said.
During the offseason, O’Riley worked with private coaches Alex Cameron and Charles Austin on the mental side of competition as well as high jumping in general. He also improved his strength through the weight program while a member of the Marble Falls basketball team.
It all helped him become a top-flight high jumper.
The 6-feet-10-inch mark at the Bulldawg Relays shows the progress he’s already made this season. O’Riley cleared 6 feet 4 inches for a gold medal at the Panther Relays Invitational at Liberty Hill on February 22.
Earlier in February, he sailed over the bar at 6 feet 8 inches during the the Air Force High School Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“It was a really cool experience,” O’Riley said of that meet.
The son of Katy and Shawn O’Riley has received inquiries from the University of Iowa, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Florida. A University of Arkansas recruiter has talked to Marble Falls High School coaches about him.
His goal is to return to the state meet in May and perform better than he did in 2019. He’ll also compete at the Texas Relays at Mike Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus at 3 p.m. Friday, March 27, where he believes he’ll face Foreman.
Just how high can he jump?
“I can clear 7-2 if I work on my technique more,” O’Riley said.
That’s an inch above former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal’s head.