* Riley Ammenhauser, a junior at Neuqua Valley, is Illinois' top triple jumper and owns a PR of 41 feet, 3.75 inches
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Riley Ammenhauser has learned there's a process for the broad jump.
One jump. Two jumps. Three jumps. Four jumps.
"You have to get warmed up before you do it," she says.
And then, poof, you have nailed it, your best effort.
Over the last month, Ammenhauser, the two-time defending Illinois High School Association Class 3A champion in the triple jump, has improved her broad jump in the same way as most things: With a lot of practice.
After an initial effort of 8 feet, 6 inches, she improved to a MileSplit Virtual Classic leading-mark of 8 feet, 8 inches.
"I've never really measured my broad jump until the Virtual Classic," Ammenhauser said this week. "I took this opportunity to do something I can do in my spare time and work toward. I've been doing that and it's been fun."
What happens when you lose a season -- specifically, in Ammenhauser's case, what happens when your weight room is locked up, your track is closed and you have no teammates to bond with?
"I've been staying active and definitely have been doing workouts in my backyard."
Ammnenhauser, who finished third in the triple jump at the Arcadia Invitational in 2019 and won the event last June at the Great Southwest Classic, has actually done a host of things to remain fit in a COVID-19 world.
She incorporates core workouts with 15-pound dumb bells. She takes plyometric workouts written by coaches and completes them. She performs box jumps adjacent to her home's brick facade. There are days when she wears a weighted vest and jumps. Other days will find her younger brother holding her back while she fights a resistance bands. There are bunny hops and frog jumps. There's yoga.
Oh yeah, there's also biking. To keep her aerobic enginge roaring, she's done that more than ever.
"Definitely," she said.
Athletes in field events might find themselves in a weird position, having to find ways to improve on their own without coaching. But it seems as though Ammenhauser, who has won two straight state triple jump titles in Illinois, has taken the adjustment in stride.
Even as her opportunity to claim four championships was erased.
"I just always look on the positive side," she said. "Even though the season got taken away, it's still something I love to do and have a future in. I keep working toward that and I'm always thinking. I want to jump in college. So I'll try to make my dreams come true. I'll work my hardest."
A converted gymast, Ammenhauser has also taken to adding sprinting to her arsenal. This indoor season, the junior ran the 55 meter for the first time, posting a best of 7.32 seconds -- fifth best in Illinois.
Recently, to work on explosiveness, she's measured out a 100 meter section in her neighborhood and has taken to completing reps there, too.
"That's definitely something I've really worked at," she said. "(This season) I was definitely going to add the 100 meter."
Recruiting has been slightly harder to manage since COVID-19, as the NCAA dead period extended into May and most colleges are still unsure where budgets stand. But Ammenhauser was lucky in one aspect: Her sophomore season was so good, there's no doubt colleges will still come calling.
Still, there have been challenges.
"I haven't been able to visit any schools," she said. "You have to feel at home somewhere. That's a big part of the recruiting process."
What keeps Ammenhauser motivated, she says, is easy: She envisions a future of endless possibilities.
Possible championships. A scholarship. Maybe representing Team USA at some point in the future.
"I work really hard," she says. "I do believe I have a very strong work ethic."