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Jumping for joy

Local high jumper is one of best in the country

Posted: July 30, 2008 1:11 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Eleven-year-old high jumper Cassie Naranjo, of Valencia has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the U.S. in her event. She's currently ranked third.

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Cassie Naranjo has been involved in high-jumping a good part of her life.

Since she was eight, the 11-year-old Legacy Christian Academy student strived to be one of the best athletes in the county.

Three years ago, Naranjo's neighbor got her into the sport.

"My friend from down the street talked about it," Naranjo said. "My dad signed me up. The first time I tried, my dad was really amazed. He said I was a natural at it. I kept on practicing and got better at it."

Her toil came to fruition recently when she achieved the No. 1 ranking in the country in high jump among her age group.

In the second track and field meet of the 2008 season, Naranjo leapt 5-feet in Glendale.

That figure still stands as the third-highest in the nation, according to the Web site eliteyouth.com.

Recently, however, Naranjo was passed up by Alexa Harmon-Thomas, who jumped 5-1. The highest jump in the Midget Division, which includes 11- and 12-year-olds, is 5-6 1/2.

"It was really exciting for the others to jump higher than me," Naranjo said. "But I knew that if I jumped this postseason, I could've done better. They were all a year older than me."

The 5-foot-4 sixth-grader jumped and ran for the Santa Clarita East Running Warriors this season. Her coach is also her father, Richard Naranjo.

She was the second-tallest girl in most meets this season, with only 5-foot-6 Santa Clarita resident Alexandria Florent, (who is currently tied for fourth in the nation) taller than her.

Still, at this height, she has a graceful, winning technique she's used at times this season.

"Before I jump, I take a hop-step," Naranjo said. "I don't know anyone else that does that."

Her goals for next season - which begins in March 2009 - and beyond are pretty lofty.

"I want to jump at least six feet," she said. "I want to do it all the way through college and go to the Olympics."

On May 31, at the championships at Santa Barbara Community College, Naranjo toughed out a winning jump, despite an injury, she recorded a 4-8 leap.

"By then I had a badly-sprained ankle," Naranjo said. "When I went back onto the field, I was on crutches."

In 20 meets this season, only once did someone else jump higher than she did. She set the midget record this season with her 5-foot jump, the highest in conference.

Naranjo also participates in competitive cheering and gymnastics, as well as holds a place on the honor roll at Legacy Christian.
While she is invovled in other activities, other high-jumpers her age are continuing their season in meets around the country.

"She just wants to go camping and be a normal 11-year-old kid," said her mother Wendy. "Some times she'd have a meet and a cheering event on the same day or the same weekend. She's done really well."

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