In high school, Chris Genco ’15 acknowledged that he passed on the long jump simply because he did not like sand in his shoes. In college, after winning the event at last weekend’s Bowdoin invitatoinal, he is more open-minded, calling it the next logical progression for someone who can “run fast and jump high.”

When he arrived at Bowdoin, Genco anticipated competing in the high jump and as a sprinter. But what propelled his leading score for the men’s tream at the Bowdoin Invitational on January 17 was in fact his performing the long jump. Genco also finished in third place in the high jump, raising his score to 15. The team gained 95 points in total. His first-place finish was Bowdoin’s only top finish of the Invitational. Genco’s winning long jump occurred in the first set of jumps, allowing him to sit out the final heat when no one could match his best jump.

Genco competed in the long jump only once during his first year at Bowdoin and performed poorly. At the time his jump approached only 4.27 meters (His winning jump at the Bowdoin Invitational last weekend was 6.66 meters). Having never jumped in that event competitively before, he felt discouraged, even though Head Coach Peter Slovenski believed the jump correlated perfectly with his natural athletic abilities.

“I would have thought he would have picked up the long jump in high school,” Slovenski said. “Long jumpers benefit from having a lot of speed. As a high school sprinter, he picked it up quickly.”

 Slovenski observed that Genco shares physical similarities with most long jumpers, compared to being shorter than some high jumpers. He particularly praised Genco’s “intuition for jumping” and his “technical IQ,” which he believes pervades most track and field events.
“He can make most adjustments to his technique and understand them better than most athletes in any sport,” Slovenski said. “If someone gets ahead of him, he knows what he has to do to catch up.”

By his sophomore year, he was practicing the long jump consistently. However, he retained the high jump, a strange pairing given their wildly different and sometimes conflicting techniques. Genco called it “counterintuitive.”

“I struggled at the high jump after I started the long jump,” he said. “My approach got faster.”
In addition to the long jump’s faster approach, the two jumps have very different penultimate steps. The long jump emphasizes lowering the hips in preparation for the outward jump while the high jumpers tend to keep their hips higher.

“A lot of track events have a natural simplicity,” Slovenski said. “They look natural. But there’s a lot of complex things to bring together—to accelerate on the runway, get a good takeoff, and then get a good jump. One of the ways he makes it look easy is that he has a good sense of how to bring it all together.”

Slovenski noted the improvement in Genco’s performance in the long jump. Genco said that it has been his primary focus this season.

“His sophomore year he was very competitive at the state level,” Slovenski said. “His junior year he became very competitive at the New England level.”

The hope is that Genco can be competitive at the national level in his final year. Having never qualified for Nationals, this is the goal he set for himself.

More than anything, Slovenski praised Genco’s contributions as a teammate and captain.
“What really stands out about Chris is not how he continues to place first. It’s what a great teammate he is.”

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.