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Maleigha Canaday-Elliott edges Anika Sukumar for gold as 2 Oregon girls break 40 feet in triple jump

“I told them … ‘I’m going to break records.’ To tie that state record feels really good. It’s huge for me.”

By René Ferrán | Photos by Brynn Kleinke 

EUGENE — It had been 14 years since an Oregon girl had broken the 40-foot barrier in the triple jump with a legal jump before this weekend. 

In one glorious competition Friday in picture perfect conditions at Hayward Field, not one but two went over 40 feet in the Class 6A competition of the OSAA track and field state championships — the first time for that to happen.

First was defending champion Anika Sukumar of West Linn, who had one wind-aided 40-footer to her credit entering the meet. She went 40-4½ on her second jump, drawing a roar from the crowd.

Anika Sukumar photo Brynn Kleinke

“I’m glad it happened here at state,” she said. “It was good just to get a good, legal 40. I’ve been jumping it so many times, you know, but I’ve been behind the board, so I’m glad to finally get it.”

It took a while for the field to work its way through the third round, but when it did, Maleigha Canaday-Elliott took her turn on the runway.

The McDaniel junior had never asked the crowd to clap during her approach, but she got it started before this attempt, then raced toward the board.

Maleigha Canaday-Elliott photo Brynn Kleinke

She landed in the sand, exited off to the right, then stared at the readerboard where marks were posted.

“I was like, ‘Where’s my mark?’” she said. “And then, Coach told me what it was.”

It was 40-6¾ — tying the state meet record set 31 years earlier by Keeoma Wardford of Sunset.

“I was so happy, because I’ve been trying so hard at practice to break that 40,” Canaday-Elliott said. “I didn’t do the clap last year, and I regretted it, so I did this year and felt so much better, because it’s like, people are watching you. You hear the echoes and all of that good stuff.”

Canaday-Elliott is also a top soccer prospect, making the all-PIL team as a midfielder last fall and having played in the Portland Thorns Academy. Her ECNL team went undefeated to win the Northwest Region and qualify for June’s playoffs in San Diego, and she told her coaches after they finished league play in late April that she’d take time off to focus on track.

“I told them, ‘I’m not going to be here. I’m going to break records,’” she said. “To tie that state record feels really good. It’s huge for me.”

Maleigha Canaday-Elliott photo Rene Ferran

As she enters her senior year, she faces a difficult decision regarding college — soccer or track?

“Since middle school, I’ve been thinking about that,” Canaday-Elliott said. “I like being a dual athlete, and I can go to college in either one. Right now, I have more (offers) in track, but as long as I’m doing sports in college, I will be happy.”

Sukumar has her college future set, having signed with Cornell University in the fall. While happy to come away with a personal-best jump, “I’m not satisfied with my performance,” she added. “My goal was 41 feet, and I’m still working toward that.

“But I knew it was going to be a tough competition. I knew 40 wouldn’t guarantee anything, but it would solidify my spot in the top three and help me get into a mindset of PR jumps.”