After finishing 7th last year, the bar and the stakes are raised for state-bound Perkins
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Dawson Perkins has 17 tattoos.
His favorite tattoo is a half-sleeve of the Lord’s Prayer written on his right arm.
In addition, the word “saint” is inked just above his right knee and the word “sinner” just above his left. But there is no dichotomy with Perkins, a Tippecanoe Valley senior, when it comes to the high jump.
He’s usually flying over the bar and standing on top of the podium.
Perkins advanced to state for the second straight year when he won the Goshen regional on May 26. He won it with a jump of 6-6.
And thanks to that jump, he will be among the top competitors at the IHSAA state finals, which start at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex in Bloomington. Perkins will be taking the runway at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Perkins was seventh at state last year as a junior with a jump of 6-6. That raised the stakes for this year. He said his goal is to finish in the top five this year.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Perkins said when asked if he expected himself to make state. “I always want to keep getting better and just keep working harder. So now I’m just hungrier for a state title this year.”
Perkins was asked to describe what the state meet is like.
“It’s just crazy packed, and there are a lot, a lot, a lot of insane athletes from all over,” he explained.
Perkins, who stands 6-7, was also the starting center on the Valley boys basketball team. He said he started preparing himself for track season midway during basketball season, saying the extra running he put in during basketball practice helped get him in shape.
So when Valley lost to NorthWood in the basketball sectional semifinals on March 4, Perkins was able to transition to indoor track season, and he cleared 6-7 in an indoor meet, which set a school record at the time.
“In a way, I think it does help prepare because indoors, there’s no weather conditions, so it’s kind of helped get me back on track for track,” Perkins said. “And then outdoors, just everything, all the elements, it’s like the big finale.”
Perkins has senior teammate Rex Kirchenstien to thank for his track career. When both were eighth-graders, they needed another runner for their 4 x 100 relay team, and Kirchenstien convinced Perkins to try out.
“So I ran in the four by one, and I tried high jump just because I knew I was kind of good at jumping, and it’s gotten me here,” Perkins said.
Perkins said he’s always loved track, but he also said he didn’t start doing the proper technique in the high jump until this year.
“It’s something that you can’t mess up in the slightest,” Perkins said. “You have to get it the exact same every time. That’s the difference between clearing a height and not.”
Perkins said most of his competitors do not have as long of a run-up as he does.
“And my ‘J’ is a little curvier,” Perkins added.
He said his sprinter’s speed – Perkins was a member of this year’s 4 x 100 relay that missed making state by less than 0.01 seconds – is to his benefit.
Perkins not only runs sprints but what he calls “flies” – runs where he works up to top speed for 20 to 30 meters before slowly slowing down. Perkins said he traverses 72 feet from the time he starts his approach to the time he reaches the bar.
“Speed is almost everything,” Perkins said. “Because if you’re not going fast enough, you’re not going to have enough momentum to carry yourself over and across the bar.”
Perkins said he was 14 when he jumped six feet for the first time. He was second at the 2019 Plymouth sectional as a freshman when he jumped six feet.
“That was my freshman year, so that was a big confidence booster,” Perkins said. “That’s what shot me into regionals my freshman year, so that really set everything off, like ‘Hey, I might be good at this.’”
Perkins did not place at the 2019 Kokomo regional and then lost his 2020 season due to the pandemic. Last year, he won the Three Rivers Conference meet with a jump of 5-10 on a cold night at Maconaquah and then jumped 6-4 to win the Plymouth sectional and 6-3 to win the Kokomo regional.
Then came the 6-6 jump at state.
Then he went 6-7 during indoor season. Perhaps his most impressive jump was when he broke the school record again with a jump of 6-8 ¼ during the TRC meet at Wabash on May 6. Rainy skies and temperatures in the mid-50s typically don’t lend themselves to school-record and conference-record performances.
Perkins had already won the meet after jumping 6-3 earlier. So he passed all the way up to 6-8 ¼. The previous conference record was 6-8, and he wanted to break it.
“The weather was really bad at the start of high jump, and there was like a puddle in the middle of the area,” Perkins said. “When I jumped 6-8 1/4, that was probably two or three hours later, and so most of the water had dried up, and I was just full of adrenaline because I had just won, so I was ready to go.”
Tiffany Krotke is the assistant coach at Valley in charge of the jumpers. Krotke records any of his jumps over six feet, and she and Perkins analyze the video afterwards.
Perkins said his misses lately have been related to him jumping too far from the bar, so he and Krotke work in practice on getting closer to the bar when he lifts off.
“We get along really well, and so that helps us working together even better,” Perkins said. “So we just really understand everything about the high jump, so when we talk, it’s super-easy communication.”
Perkins will continue his track and academic careers at Indiana University East in Richmond in the fall. Kirchenstien, the teammate who convinced him to try out for track as an eight-grader, will join him there on the team.
But in a way, there is a parallel between Perkins’ high school track career and his tattoos. Neither are quite yet completed.
“It’s just my favorite probably because it’s my most recent one, and it’s not finished yet, so I’m just ready for it to be a whole thing,” Perkins said.
Tippecanoe Valley boys track state qualifiers, from left, Wade Jones, Wade Melanson, Dawson Perkins