Shonderius Howard lives with lots of outside expectations, and sometimes it feels as if they are set higher than the bar he strives to clear.
After exploding onto the scene last year as a sophomore, when he finished second in the high jump at the Class 3A state track and field meet, people began assuming a return trip was virtually automatic. But Howard knows better.
“People think it is an easy thing just because I did it last year,” the junior said,
“but it is not an easy thing to do. People think I just wake up, get out of bed and jump high. That is not it.”
At times, though, Howard made it appear effortless; especially of late.
In the last five weeks, Howard came within an inch of tying the school record while setting a personal best, won the district championship by half a foot and followed it up by placing first at area to earn his second consecutive regional berth.
Considering Howard never participated in the event prior to last year, beginning the 2012 season on the junior varsity team, his acceleration in the event is even impressive to his coach.
“The more he watches, the more he absorbs,” Lampasas head coach Stephen Moseley said. “He’s got some great skills, and he does not have a medium or even a three-quarter speed. It is all or nothing.”
And it all began as a simple sibling rivalry.
After watching older brother Secody Howard compete in the high jump for Lampasas, Shonderius decided to take up the event as a way of showing up his sibling.
“I always knew I could jump higher than him,” said Howard, who also plays basketball for the Badgers. “He was a pretty good jumper, but he was too big, and I figured why not. I was dunking as a freshman. I was the highest jumper in the school, and everyone was amazed at me dunking, so I just decided I’d try it.”
Shortly after winning his first competition, Howard was elevated to the varsity team and began routinely medaling at meets.
At the 2012 District 25-3A meet, he cleared 6 feet, 2 inches to finish second and beat his brother, who was a senior at the time.
At regionals, Howard posted a personal best of 6-4 — a feat he actually achieved twice because of a jump off. While the performance propelled him into the state meet, it also infused him with a confidence he previously lacked.
“Last year, I went into meets just hoping for the best, hoping I didn’t get last place,” Howard said. “Now, I’m really trying to win this thing. Its great, I can go into track meets knowing I’m better than a lot of people there.”
During basketball season, Howard sprained his ankle — an injury that continues to linger — but still excelled during track season. On March 23, Howard narrowly missed tying the school record of 6-9 set by Seth Lowery in 2005 by clearing a personal-best height of 6-8.
Less than three weeks later, Howard easily won the District 8-3A high jump with a 6-6 before winning the area meet with an identical height.
“He is worlds ahead of where he was at this time last year,” Moseley said. “He’s got 6-10 or better in him for sure.”
Howard is not overly concerned with what others expect of him, though. His personal standards are set extremely high and his lone goal is simple — he wants to do better than he did last year, which equates to winning state.
“I think about it every track meet,” Howard said. “That is what really pushes me to get better.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org