Marian Catholic’s Matthew Martinson developing by leaps and bonds

For Marian Catholic’s Matthew Martinson, there’s nothing like landing on the high jump cushion and seeing the bar still in place.

“That’s the greatest feeling,’’ he said.

It’s a feeling Martinson frequently has had in just a little more than two seasons.

Martinson, a junior, is a two-time East Suburban Catholic Conference champion and a 2013 state qualifier in the high jump, an event he tried in eighth grade at Trinity Lutheran in Lansing “just for the fun of it.’’

It turned out to be a lot of fun. Martinson won the high jump at the 2011 Illinois Lutheran State Championships with a height of 5 feet, 6 inches.

“It kind of came natural,’’ he said. “The Fosbury Flop, I learned it in eighth grade.’’

The Fosbury Flop approach was named for Dick Fosbury, the 1968 Olympic Gold medalist in the high jump. When Martinson started at Marian Catholic, coach LaVon Burks helped him improve his technique in the event, despite what others had in mind.

“Everybody kept saying he was a distance runner,’’ Burks said. “His freshman year he wanted to do all the jumps.’’

Martinson has made gradual improvement in the jumps, including from 38-5½ in the conference triple jump as a freshman to 43-11 this year at the Al Joyner Classic in East St. Louis.

He has reached 6-6½ in the high jump, but his outdoor best is 6-5 last year at the Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional. Providence’s Mike Monroe, the sectional champion and eventual state runner-up, gets part of the credit.

“Watching him I learned a lot,’’ Martinson said. “Him and his coach, they helped me out, they’ll support me in the middle of a meet. They want me to excel and get better.

“Mike’s really great at encouraging you to improve.’’

Similarly, Martinson does the same when he helps Burks coach her summer track program for participants as young as 6 years old.

“It’s great seeing someone young excel, and love what they’re doing,’’ he said.

Part of the progress for Martinson came when he switched last year to a 10-step approach, started to really bend over the bar and now uses a 12-step approach.

His goal this season is to clear 6-9. The upcoming conference meet and Class 2A Thornridge Sectional will serve as measures for the state competition.

“Right now, it’s all about getting stronger,’’ he said. “Once the form is down, you can always improve if you do something wrong. But in the end, it comes down to getting stronger.’’

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