Sondheimer: Karson Gordon is a hop, skip and jump away from UCLA playing days

The No. 1 high school triple jumper in America, Karson Gordon, is coming to town on Saturday to attend UCLA’s spring football practice in the morning. He’s committed to UCLA to play quarterback.

In the evening, he’ll be competing at the Arcadia Invitational after setting a national scholastic record at last week’s Texas Relays when he achieved a mark of 53 feet, 1½ inches.

“I felt perfection,” he said. “I never really celebrate after a jump, but I felt that was the one.”

It was his third attempt at the meet, and his father, Keilone, who taught him how to triple jump in the seventh grade and used to do the event in high school, was watching in the stands.

“I’m sure there were tears in his eyes,” Gordon said.

Gordon lives in Bellaire, Texas, a suburb of Houston. He’s 6 feet 1, 180 pounds and was the Gatorade state track and field athlete of the year last season. As a quarterback, he passed for 2,345 yards and 28 touchdowns.

He won the triple jump at last year’s Arcadia Invitational (49-3). He didn’t know at the time he’d end up making Westwood his college destination, but he couldn’t be happier. He intends to return in early June to begin classes.

“I know Big Ten football is big-boy football,” he said. “You have to play fast and play smart. I’m going to play tough. I try to be a leader.”

There should be no doubts about his athleticism. The UCLA football and track coaches have signed off on him competing in both sports. His triple jump skills have him dreaming of competing at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. This summer he will try to make the U20 national team that will compete in August at the World Championships in Lima, Peru.

One of his hopes is to meet one the most successful triple jumpers ever, Willie Banks, who happens to be a former UCLA star and world record holder from 1985 when he went 58½ feet.

“It would be awesome,” he said. “I always heard about his name.”

Success in the triple jump, known for its hop, skip and jump, requires refined technique and explosiveness. Gordon said picking up momentum down the runway probably propelled him to his record last week.

“It was mostly my run,” he said. “I was able to put most of my force into the run. And hit the board perfect.”

He said he feels satisfied and content with his record but the next goal is to reach 54 feet. The national record for a high school student is 54-10 1/4 set in 2004.

He said track was always an avenue to getting faster for football, but as he became a standout in the triple jump, he got serious about the event. “It helps me with explosiveness and throwing the ball with a strong lower body,” he said.

As for his impressions of UCLA’s new football coach, DeShaun Foster, and the many new assistant coaches, Gordon said, “It’s a great mixture of hard-working people who want to ball.”

Gordon welcomes UCLA fans coming to Arcadia High on Saturday to take a peek.

“Any Bruin fans are free to come by and watch,” he said.

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