PINEDALE – Pinedale’s long winters are tough for indoor track athletes. The outdoor track, sandpit, runway and throwing range are typically buried under snow and ice until March.
“The only place we get to practice here is in the hallways,” said senior Isabella Romasko. “We do hurdles on the carpeting.”
Preparing for field events like the triple jump involve getting creative. Rubber mats substitute for runways and thicker mats used during the outdoor season for the high jump act as alternative sandpits.
“The mat is useful to make sure we get up on our last hop, but it’s not the same as practicing on a natural runway and a pit,” said Romasko.
The only time Romasko and her teammates have access to proper track facilities is at competitions, yet public health restrictions significantly reduced the number of meets this year.
“It was rough,” said Romasko. “We only had three meets the whole season. It was different from last year when we had a meet every weekend. There wasn’t time to improve consistently over the season. At State, all the girls that (placed) ahead of me were from the other side of the state that I hadn’t competed against the entire season.”
Before travel restrictions were imposed, the 2020 indoor track team participated in the Simplot Games hosted by the University of Idaho and the Olympic Oval Meet in Salt Lake City, organized by the Utah High School Track Coaches Association. Large, interstate meets provided a higher level of competition. This winter, the Olympic Oval went ahead as scheduled, but organizers required athletes to wear masks while running and canceled jumping and throwing events, Romasko said.
Romasko made the best of the situation and took second place in the triple jump at the 2021 Wyoming Indoor Track and Field Championships. The senior cleared 36 feet, 2 inches, handily beating the third-place finish from Laramie by 9 inches to receive her second All-State honors in indoor track.
In 2020, Romasko placed second in the 55-meter hurdles to make the All-State list the first time and took third in the triple jump at 35-08 1/4. This year, Romasko flip-flopped her events, coming in third place in the 55-meter hurdles. The senior also finished fifth in the 55-meter dash.
Romasko said her primary focus is jumping.
“I like the challenge of jumping,” she said. “I’m more concerned about triple jump because that’s what I’m going to college for. I enjoy doing hurdles, and I’m decent at them. The 55-meter dash is my release event because I don’t have to jump over anything. I just have to run and not worry as much.”
In 2019, Romasko won the 3A Outdoor Track State Championship in the triple jump and placed second in the 100-meter hurdles to earn All-State honors. Officials marked her triple jump at 35-11. During indoor track this year, Romasko beat her personal record at the qualifying meet in Casper, measuring in at 36-05, 6 inches shy of the school record.
Officials canceled the outdoor track season last year, and Romasko is excited to practice this spring on a real runway and pit and is hungry for competition to begin.
Setting her sights on breaking the school record, Romasko knows that as she gets closer to that goal, she will have to fight for every inch. Romasko said she is up for the challenge.
Making the jump
Unafraid to try new sports, Romasko joined the Sublette County combined swim team her junior year and tried out diving. One year later, Romasko won the State Championship in the event and picked up her fourth All-State honor.
The skills needed to succeed in diving translate to training for the triple jump.
“You have to press off a board (in both sports),” said Romasko. “The hard dives I do take a lot more power than the easier dives, so I worked on my leg strength for jumping.”
Diving and a shortage of starting boards at the Casper meet gave Romasko the confidence to start her triple jump with a 36-foot board for the first time.
“I was the only one at State that went off a 36-foot board,” she said. “At Casper, I wasn’t jumping very well, and they only had a 30-foot board, and I said, ‘I’m just going to go off a 36 board for finals.’ Fear is a great motivator – quoted from (coach Larry) Proud. That was a big mark for me.”
Romasko’s athletic career started in gymnastics. The synchronization and precision required for gymnastics also carried over to jumping events.
“You have to be very coordinated in the triple jump to get the hop, bound and jump all in one smooth motion,” Romasko said. “You have a metaphorical box that you’re not supposed to step out of, because that would send your whole jump off balance. You don’t want to lean over your box, or have your knee bending out of it.”
Another key to mastering the triple jump involves regulating speed.
“You have to control your run so that you’re running consistently down the runway so you don’t scratch or go over the board,” Romasko said. “You can’t have too much speed or you will get out of control when you’re doing your jump.”
Romasko enjoys the camaraderie that forms between athletes from different schools in sports like indoor track and swimming.
“You’re all just supportive of each other, really,” she said. “That’s the nice thing about indoor track. You’re on a team, but the competition is individual, so you can be friends with people on other teams without really coming at them.
In addition to participating in sports all year, Romasko works at the Pinedale Aquatic Center and is enrolled in grueling college preparation coursework. Romasko plans to continue her triple-jump career in college and combine her math and science talents to pursue a career in nuclear engineering.
Romasko thanked coach Proud, her teammates and parents for pushing her to succeed throughout the indoor track season.
“Even though they couldn’t be at the meets, my parents were my biggest supporters.”