The Top Jump Athletes To Watch At The AAU Junior Olympics

* In February, Cory and Bryan spoke with Jaden Price-Whitehead on MileSplit's weekly podcast, On The Line


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The AAU Junior Olympic Games is arriving this week in Florida, and here's the deal: 

It will be the best youth and high school-aged track and field meet of 2020 .. by far.

No questions asked. 

Even with an abbreviated amount of competitors -- a projected 2,100 athletes -- there will be an obscene amoung of talent on the Satellite Beach High School track. And we are absolutely here for it -- just make sure you wear your masks and stay safe! You can read about safety protocols here

Read: The Top 7 Throwers Headed To The AAU Junior Olympic Games - The Top 12 Distance Athletes Headed to the AAU Junior Olympic Games

But a few things will be different about the AAU Junior Olympic Games this week, particularly the jumps. There will be only one jump event on the schedule -- unfortunately, we won't see high jump or triple jump competitors this week. 

So that leaves competitors vying for national titles in the long jump. 

Below, we've compiled the best high-school aged competitors headed to the Games.

View: AAU Junior Olympic Games Performance Lists

Jaden Price-Whitehead

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Upper Dublin High School, PA

Class of 2020, Boys 17-18 Long Jump

With no Johnny Brackins to square off with this week -- the Missouri athlete has scratched -- Price-Whitehead might be in a league of his own in the long jump. But let's not coronate the blue-chip Pennsylvania talent just yet.

With no competitions on his resume in 2020 just yet, Price-Whitehead, who finished third in his division last year, will have to adjust fast and make sure he's focused in order to secure a mark in the wheelhouse of his ability. Hitting the pit after such a long competitive exodus isn't the easiest thing to do, though to be fair ...he just might be the kind of athlete who has the turn-on switch at his disposal. 

It's hard to discount Price-Whitehead's talent. Last year, the sophomore won the Emerging Elite section at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. Then, just a season later, he rocketed off the board for a career best mark of 25-feet flat, ending the season with the nation's top mark in the event. That mark also presented a nearly 12-inch improvement from his career best the previous outdoor season. 

Consistency is always the key in the jumps, and Price-Whitehead will have to search for it early. After all, he has just four 24-plus foot jumps on his resume overall. But if he's hit it once, at least he knows what it will take. And sometimes that's half the battle. 

Price-Whitehead will also compete in the 100m and 200m over the week. 

Curtis Williams 

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Tallahassee Leon High School, FL

Class of 2021, Boys 17-18 Long Jump

Price-Whitehead may have the better overall mark, but Williams is a defending champion. And winners know how to win. 

Williams heads into this year's event having won the boys' 15-16 division a season ago with a career best mark of 24 feet, 7 inches.

That's legit. 

There's also the fact that Williams isn't the only standout jump talent from Tallahassee Leon High School set to compete at The Games. He and teammate Nadia Collins (below) are both ranked in the top three of their respective divisions heading into the AAU Junior Olympic Games this week. 

All that being said, Williams still has a tough task, if only because he's playing catch-up. Price-Whitehead, who's seeded ahead of him, has already hit 25-feet over his career. 

But as we all know, anything can happen on the day of competition, and if Williams gets one perfect jump, he's got the potential to go big. He opened his outdoor season in March with jumps of 24-3 and 23-10.

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Springfield Southeast High School, IL

Class of 2020, Boys 17-18 Long Jump

At this point, most athletes don't need a new reason for motivation. A canceled season is enough. But Emuze was inspired enough to put his thoughts down for an essay earlier this year for MileSplit, and it was there where we learned just how dedicated this Illinois jumper had been over the years. 

So sometimes there's no telling where drive, dedication and heart will take you. Emuze enters with a personal best long jump of 23-1 -- that's the sixth-best seed in this field -- though something tells us he's going to be in the hunt for a medal, and on the right day, maybe even the win. 

Emuze largely operated in the 22-foot window a season ago, securing second-best and third-best jumps of 22-7.5 and 22-4.75, respectively, though something else to consider: He added a foot-plus to his best mark in the long jump between his sophomore and junior seasons. 

Paige Floriea 

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Mentor High School, OH

Class of 2021, Girls 17-18 Long Jump

You may be surprised to hear that Floriea, a rising senior at Mentor High School in Ohio, is the top seed in the 17-18 age group girls long jump.

But don't be, because that would be a mistake. 

A season ago, Floriea won a OHSAA Division I state championship in the long jump as a sophomore, hitting a mark of 19 feet, 9.75 inches to secure her first outdoor title in the state and her second-straight top three finish. But it didn't come out of nowhere.

The Ohioan scored a personal and career best mark of 20-2.5 just a few weeks earlier in 2019 at the Great Cleveland Conference Championships, a mark that finished the year at US No. 15 for all condition marks. Over the season she also hit four other marks over 19-8. 

Heading into the AAU Junior Olympic Games this week, Floriea's first, she has the potential to not only win the event but to secure a powerful mark in the process. She also possesses sub-25 second speed in the 200m.

Floriea is also scheduled to compete in the 100m and 200m.

Nadia Collins

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Tallahassee Leon High School, FL

Class of 2021, Girls 17-18 Long Jump

If anyone could give Floriea a run for her money, it would be Collins. The rising senior from Florida posted her career best of 5.96 meters (19 feet, 6.75 inches) in the long jump in March, before the season was canceled due to fears over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But Collins certainly will be hoping for more here.

With mid 12.5-second and sub-60 second speed in the 100m and 400m, respectively, Collins has the kind of explosion that can typically transfer over big marks in the pit. 

And she was on the move toward a 6-plus meter mark in 2020 after following up her sophomore season with a PR in the first weeks of the season. In 2019, Collin scored top marks of 19-6, 19-3.5 and 19-2. 

Leonard Mustari

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Dunbar High School, FL

Class of 2021, Boys 17-18 Long Jump

At this point, Mustari is known more for his high hurdle exploits than his elite ability in the long jump. But he's getting there. In July, Mustari secured an AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games title in the event with a mark of 23 feet, 2 inches. That wasn't his personal best, but that win did mean something. 

Out of every athlete headed to AAU this week, Mustari is the most ready for competition. The Dunbar athlete has four 23-foot-plus jumps to his name in 2020, including a personal best mark of 23-4.

So if his competitors struggle out of the gate on their first or second jumps, or if they fail to make apt adjustments, Mustari has a shot to grab a win in the boys 17-18 division -- and maybe earn a new personal record in the process. 

Mustari will also look to win the boys 17-18 110mH as well. 

* Saunders in the 200m during the heptathlon in 2019

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Jahnelle Saunders

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Hampton Bethel High School, VA

Class of 2021, Girls 17-18 Long Jump

Saunders has been an incredibly gifted track and field athlete across her short high school career, but here's the thing: She hasn't had that big wow moment just yet. 

And I think it's bound to come at some point.

Her junior season would have been a very good opportunity, had it not been erased by COVID-19. But hey, it's not over yet. And while the long jump isn't her strongest event -- she's ranked 11th here -- sometimes strange things happen when you're motivated. 

Saunders certainly has the potential to capitalize on a big markcurtis . As a sophomore, she scored a wind-aided mark of 19-5.5 and had six other marks over 18-5. She's also a sub-14.2 second hurdler and 5-7 high jumper. 

And there's also this: Saunders hasn't won an outright AAU Junior Olympic Games title since 2017, when she was technically still in the eighth grade and scored a victory in the 100mH.

That might give her all the incentive she needs this week. Saunders will be an athlete to watch for sure. She will also be competing in the 100mH, 4x100 and 4x400.

Tia Taylor

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Saint Basil Academy, PA

Class of 2021, Girls 17-18 Long Jump

Like Saunders, Taylor will be motivated to capture another breakthrough at this year's Games. 

The talented jumper, who has flourished in the 100mH over the past few years, has yet to get back to her career best mark of 19 feet, 3 inches since 2018, when she secured the jump at the Diamond State Relays. 

But Taylor, who won a PIAA Class AA state title in the high hurdles as a freshman, does have a load of experience, and she even has a national record on her resume -- in 2016, as a 13-year-old, she tied Saunders with a new AAU Junior Olympic Games' age group best of 18-9. 

Taylor has been producing 18-foot jumps for much of the last two seasons, but maybe here will change that trend against some lethal competition. Taylor enters as the eighth-best seed in the field. 

Grace Smith

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Smyrna Elite Track Club, GA

Class of 2024, Girls 14yo Long Jump

Smith is the only underclassmen on this list, and for good reason. 

She enters the AAU Junior Olympic Games seed third in 100m (12.00), fourth in the 100mH (14.80), third in the 200mH (26.90) and first in the long jump (18-10).

That last one is particularly impressive when you consider it would be the top seed in the 15-16 division and seventh-best in the girls 17-18 age group. 

Simply put, Smith is a special talent and ranks the long jump as one of her best events. The rising high school freshman has already put down marks of 18-5, 18-2.5 and 18-0 this season, and as a seventh-grader she went 18-6.5 and 18-4.5. 

Don't be surprised when she hits a big one.