Claire Leach has made believers even of her teammates.
The Grand Forks Red River High School junior continued her strong track season in the triple jump Friday. Leach won the event with a mark of 36 feet, 7.5 inches at the annual Grand Forks Classic meet at Cushman Field.
That was a half inch shy of matching Leach's best triple jump this season, a 36-8 mark that is the longest of the season in North Dakota Class A ranks heading into the weekend. Those are big marks for the 5-foot-3 Leach. "That might be a bit of a stretch,'' she said of her listed height.
"I'm usually on the shorter end of the triple jumpers. I've heard people, some of them my own teammates, say it's surprising that I'm able to jump as far as I do because of my height.
"What I lack in height, I try to make up for by working harder. It (height) is a bit of a hindrance. But it gives me more motivation.''
Leach's title at the Classic was the third time she's won the triple jump at outdoor meets this season. That comes after she was runner-up in the EDC championships and sixth at the Class A state meet in the triple jump last season.
"At the state meet, if they'd lined up the kids in the finals, she would have been one of the shorter girls,'' Red River coach Tracey Heisler said. "She's pretty tiny. But she's powerful.
"Triple jumping is all about power in the legs. Claire has strong, powerful legs. When she picked it up, we could tell she would be good at it. She's really blossomed this year. She's stronger. She's more confident.''
Leach has one state championship plaque to her credit. As a seventh-grader, she ran a leg on Red River's winning 4x400 relay team. Leach has won the open 400 in four outdoor meets this season. She didn't run the 400 on Friday, instead running two relays and getting one of her best marks of the season in the triple jump.
"I feel comfortable jumping at home,'' she said of Friday's leap. "And the nice weather really helps.''
In addition, having the longest triple jump in the state is added incentive-as if Leach didn't already find incentives.
Having the state's longest jump "is a little surprising to me,'' the junior said. "I wouldn't have expected that at the beginning of the season. Now it gives me motivation to work hard and do well.''