At 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, Ben Hagan doesn’t fit the prototypical mold of a high jumper. It doesn’t matter that Hagan is physically smaller than most of his competitors—he’s looking to go higher with every jump. The San Benito High junior is having a breakthrough season, with a personal-record mark of 6 feet, 1 inch that ranks him tied for the 12th best mark in the Central Coast Section.
“I worked very hard in the off-season so I could jump 6 feet this year,” he said. “When I got 5-10 last year, it gave me more confidence and greater goals and expectations for this season.”
Hagan is part of a serious logjam among the section’s best, with the top two athletes at 6-6 and another two having cleared 6-4. A half-dozen of athletes have done 6-2, Hagan is at 6-1 and a dozen have done 6 feet even. If Hagan continues to improve, a CCS podium finish is not out of the question.
However, Hagan will take things one jump at a time, focusing on the Monterey Bay League Championships and getting out of the CCS Trials. A year ago, Hagan went 5-9 in the Trials to place ninth, missing out on a spot in the Finals.
“I feel more confident this year because I know I can get higher marks,” he said. “I have high expectations.”
San Benito track and field coach Rob Macias had nothing but positive things to say about Hagan’s demeanor and love of the sport.
“Ben has always been well liked the moment he started track as a freshman,” Macias said in a text message to the Free Lance. “The older jumpers at the time kind of took him under their wing. … Doesn’t matter what’s going on, Ben is always having a good time. As a coach you could tell the kid had a little something. Then sophomore year Ben starts with a big jump. The best part of that season is watching Ben at CCS Trials competing against guys much bigger than him. But all of his competitors are just cheering for him. He just has that laid back attitude.”
Hagan has been remarkably consistent this season, having finished with marks of 5-10 through 6-1 in all but one of the seven meets he’s competed in. The one time Hagan didn’t clear 5-10 was the very first meet of the season, so one can pretty much throw that result out the window and see that Hagan has been rock-solid throughout.
When Hagan cleared 6 feet for the first time in his career March 24 in the King City Invitational—he also cleared it again four days later in a dual meet—the Balers standout had experienced a breakthrough.
“It was a big deal for me because that was something I imagined getting when I first started this (as a freshman),” he said. “To have finally gotten it was amazing.”
When Hagan produced a 6-1 on April 6, he pumped his arms before running over to his coaches and friends in pure elation. Hagan has come a long way in a short period. As a freshman, his best mark was 5-2. Like most freshmen taking up the event for the first time, Hagan admitted he had no idea what he was doing.
But with the help of the San Benito High coaches, Hagan started to get his form down. Hagan credited Macias and assistant coach Wes Finley for helping him develop and spending extra time with him after practice to put him in the best position to succeed.
“I wouldn’t be at 6-1 without their help,” Hagan said. “I’ll get in some extra work after practice, and they give me advice when I need it. … “Technique-wise this year I’ve been working more on bending over the bar and trying to get my head lower than my butt, which will allow me to get much higher heights.”
Even though Hagan grew up playing football—he played cornerback and wide receiver on San Benito’s junior varsity team last season—the high jump has become his single favorite sports endeavor. Hagan also competes in the long jump and triple jump, having established huge PRs in those events this season, too.
From a young age, Hagan has always had an affinity for jumping—“My mom said when I was really little, I was really bouncy,” he said—and now everything has come together this season.