Dick Harmon: 38-year old Utahn amazingly soars 7 feet, 1 inch in the high jump

Published: Monday, April 29 2013 5:55 p.m. MDT

Dave Hoffman is 38 years told. To say he’s in pretty good shape undersells the man.

Over the weekend, Hoffman, who lives in Logan, went out on a lark and high jumped 7 feet, 1 inch to win the event at the Clarence Robison Invitational in Provo.

Folks, that is a very big deal. At 38, most humans are anxiously engaged in fighting the effects of age.

In track and field, you cannot cheat the tape or the clock. The times and measurements have been the same for as long as man has tried to figure distance and put a clock to movement.

When you’re 38, closing in on 40, it’s a time in life you have kids and they’re probably entering their teens. It’s a time you are mired hip deep in a mortgage, a job and your body has gone through a transformation of sorts. Scientists say when you turn 25, you begin to permanently lose some muscle tissue. If you believe those supplement commercials on TV, you can lose 8 to 12 percent of muscle a year in your 40s and 50s.

In other words, it’s a time you either stop — or think to stop — playing basketball, or you retire from those community league softball teams to save your knees for golfing, hiking or riding bikes. You definitely begin to feel you are on your way to fossil-hood.

That’s why it is so inspirational to hear what Hoffman did.

He is the father of five children ages 13,12,11,7 and 5. He weighs 20 more pounds then he did as a collegian.

A former Utah Valley and Utah State track star, Hoffman hadn’t competed in years until he fooled around a little at meets this spring at USU and Weber State, jumping 6-4 and 6-7. At a high school meet, a former coach challenged him to jump and show kids how to do it. He leaped 6-3 and suddenly "got the bug again, "is how he described it.

“What Dave did was absolutely phenomenal,” said Dave Cherrington, the head official for the high jump, a job he’s had at track events at BYU for 20 years.

Hoffman just happened to be in town doing some training for his job with Comcast. He had been climbing poles and scratched his shin, which had a few scabs. He thought he’d enter the track meet on a whim to see how he would do since he was in the area.

"I was awkward," he said. "You are supposed to have your steps down and not stutter step. I ran my approach and adjusted as I went," he said.

"I was the old man among the kids. It must have been the great weather, the competition, or adrenelain going against BYU players. It got me going."

Cherrington believes his warm-up during Saturday’s meet was the first serious training for the event Hoffman has done in years. He practiced his approaches, got his timing down and made his marks on the approach.

In case you need a little perspective, 7-foot high jumpers are very rare. If you stand under the bar and look at how high it is above you, the vantage point is intimidating. You wonder how in the world a human being could launch himself that high to clear that bar.

Hoffman's lifetime best high jump was 7-6 1/2 in 2001.

Hoffman, said Cherrington, has the most unique approach he’s ever seen. It is the longest he’s ever seen. Women high jumpers start their run at the bar 25 yards away, and males begin some 10 to 12 yards behind that. Hoffman starts his approach out another 25 yards. He begins at the edge of the track where a chain link fence prevents him from getting any farther away. He runs across all nine lanes of the rubberized track and when he approaches the pit, he leaves his feet at a full sprint — a good foot to a foot and half farther away than others.

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