GULFPORT — Chaise Cook-Martin was so fast down the runway her hair seemed ready to peel from her scalp. The Boca Ciega junior hit the triple jump board with power and soared to an impressive length.
Then she exploded out of the sand, knowing this leap was awfully good. An official sank a marker at the spot. It read 38 feet.
With that jump, her final one of the meet, Cook-Martin sailed past her competitors and into the record books.
Cook-Martin not only won the triple jump at last week’s West Coast Invitational, she set a meet record by going 38 feet — a mark that ranks as the state’s best regardless of classification according to flrunners.com.
“I had no idea I’m the best in the state right now,” Cook-Martin said. “I knew it was a good jump. But I didn’t know it was that good.”
Cook-Martin is just getting warmed up. She did not participate in club track this summer, choosing to attend a summer academy program at St. Petersburg College that helps students excel in the FCAT.
It wasn’t until January that Cook-Martin started getting ready for the season.
“I know I have some bigger jumps ahead of me because I’m just now getting back into shape,” she said.
She already has proved to be a quick learner. A star at Azalea Middle School, Cook-Martin won almost every event she entered. About the only one she didn’t win was the triple jump, and that’s because it’s not included in middle school track.
Still, the event intrigued her, especially after she watched a few of Boca Ciega’s girls leaping in practice two years ago.
On her first attempt, she cleared 35 feet. She went on to win district and placed sixth in the triple jump at the 2010 Class 3A state meet.
Last year, Cook-Martin took fourth at state in the triple jump after a leap of 37-5¼.
Now, she headlines the event. Part of the reason she has done so well is her dedication to the sport. This year she decided to give up basketball to concentrate on track.
“I kept getting injured whenever I played basketball and I wanted to come into this season healthy,” Cook-Martin said.
Cook-Martin has soaring ambitions for next week’s Ed Wells/Kiwanis Invitational. She said she wants to beat her record of 39-2½ she set at last year’s meet.
“I think I can go 39 feet,” Cook-Martin said. “I’m close to that in practice.”
She also is doing well in the long jump and the 100 and 300 hurdles.
“I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit and try some different events,” Cook-Martin said. “I’m winning nearly all of them. But the triple jump still is the best.”