Quick corrections lead North Allegheny’s Taylor to WPIAL triple jump title

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Saturday, May 22, 2021 | 11:01 AM


There’s plenty about junior Dwayne Taylor that impresses North Allegheny’s track and field coaches: He’s 6-foot-5 with long limbs and the speed of a sprinter.

Taylor has all the physical tools needed to be one of the state’s top jumpers.

But it’s quiet conversations at practice that make coach John Neff take notice, when Taylor can help evaluate his own jumps, absorb his coaches’ feedback and then immediately put that information to use.

It’s an ability that made Taylor a WPIAL champion.

“It’s one thing to be able to compare and contrast yourself with an Olympian or an ideal computer model,” Neff said. “But then it’s another thing to be able to actually make the changes in a reasonable amount of time and a reasonable amount of reps.

“He is able to do that.”

Taylor won the triple jump at the WPIAL Class AAA track and field championship May 19 at Slippery Rock, placed third in the long jump and qualified for states in both events.

The triple jump is Taylor’s specialty. He made quick work of the competition at the WPIAL meet, needing only one jump in the finals for a personal-best of 45 feet, 8½ inches. That distance ranked him sixth-best in the state.

Still, Taylor strives to perfect his form.

“I feel like it’s a challenge,” he said. “I put my mind to it and go out there and perform even better than I normally do. I go out there with a powerful mindset.”

Triple jumpers with sprinter speed often are too flat in their jumps, Neff said, because they’re used to going straight ahead. That was a point NA coaches shared with Taylor, who ran the 200 meters and contributed on the school’s 400-meter relay.

They talked about changing the angle into his first jump and improving his balance, leading to more air before landing in the sand.

For Taylor, change comes easy.

“Sometimes I’ll think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you were just able to change that in the course of 10 reps,’” Neff said. “It would take the average person maybe two weeks’ worth of reps to be able to make that change.”

This was Taylor’s first track season with North Allegheny after moving from Bakersfield, Calif. He’s a relative of former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, a Bakersfield native, whose son, Jacob, is a sprinter for North Allegheny.

Taylor also is a standout wide receiver and defensive back for the football team. He’s drawing Division I college offers for that sport, but in the spring, his focus is track. Taylor has triple jumped since his freshman year in California.

“At first I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t get the concept of it,” Taylor said. “But my coaches coached me up and taught me how. Then I started to like it.”

He was one of three North Allegheny athletes who qualified for states in an individual event. Porter finished fourth in the boys 100 meters (11.22 seconds), and Aveline Plenter-Krelling was fourth in the girls 110 hurdles (15.9 seconds). Three relay teams also are making the trip to Shippensburg for the May 29 meet: the boys 400-meter relay, the boys 3,200 relay and the girls 1,600 relay.

Neff credits his California coaches for teaching Taylor the fundamentals. The two didn’t meet until February, and he saw Taylor’s potential immediately.

“There were intangibles there, innate abilities,” Neff said. “And he wasn’t raw off the street. I don’t know his coach from California, but somebody was working with him for sure. You could tell he had done the sport before.

“The triple jump is not one that you just give it a try and you’re Top 10 in the state. That doesn’t happen. I don’t care how athletic you are.”

Taylor has improved his triple-jump marks by more than a foot since his first meet of the season, and his long jump increased by more than two feet. His personal best in the long jump is 21 feet, 11½ inches.

“Sometimes a kid will be fast but maybe not necessarily athletic,” Neff said. “You can tell him what to do. You can show him video of what to do. But he just can’t control his body to do it. That’s not Dwayne. Dwayne is an athlete and can control himself in space.

“He’s learning fast and impressing us all the time. It’s almost as soon as we notice something and we show him the correction, he’s able to make the correction quickly, which is pretty cool. I know from experience, that’s not the norm.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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