Catholic Central junior reaching new heights

Catholic Central junior Mallory Mullen won the Tippecanoe Invitational on Saturday iwth a leap of 5 feet, 6 inches. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED
Catholic Central junior Mallory Mullen won the Tippecanoe Invitational on Saturday iwth a leap of 5 feet, 6 inches. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

2019 high jump state champ Mallory Mullen undefeated in meets this season

SPRINGFIELD – If the competitors in the boys high jump didn’t want to get psyched out prior to their event at the Tipp City Invitational on Saturday, then hopefully they didn’t show up early.

“Man, that’s crazy,” one boys competitor said, shaking his head and smiling after watching Catholic Central junior Mallory Mullen win the girls high jump.

Mullen won with an effort of 5 feet, 6 inches. That would have tied her for second in the ensuing boys competition behind the 5-9 jump from Tippecanoe’s Gavin Garlitz. And Mullen isn’t far from that mark, either.

Mullen entered the meet with a personal-best 5-8.25. That’s the 10th best high school jump in the country for girls and No. 2 overall in Ohio, trailing only Mentor senior Victoria Lanese’s 5-9.

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“Ultimately we want to get her to 5-10 and go from there,” Catholic Central coach Mark Klopfenstein said. “Losing last year hurt because we don’t know what she would have progressed to. She still worked but the meets make a difference.”

The victory for Mullen was her ninth this season in as many meets. The 2019 Division III high jump state champion (5-7) is a favorite to do it again. On Tuesday she put her talent on display at the Clark County Championships at Greenon High School.

North’s Anne Morrow holds the county record at 5-4 set in 2001. Mullen went 5-0 for third place as a freshman in 2019. Spring sports were cancelled in 2020.

“I just really enjoy sports. That’s all I’ve been doing since I was little,” Mullen said. “Quarantining when everything shut down, I knew how much sports meant to me because I missed it so much. I don’t know what I’d do without sports.”

With that leaping ability it’s no surprise Mullen excelled in basketball for the Irish. She led the Ohio Heritage Conference with 13.7 rebounds, including a season-high 22 in a win against Madison Plains. She also averaged 13.6 points.

In track Mullen has also taken on the 400-meter dash, running it about three or four times. Her PR of 1:03.54 ranks her fourth among the top Clark County times.

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“I’m starting to like it more. I think it’s going to help me – you don’t really need endurance for high jump – but it’s going to help me with speed and powering through,” Mullen said.

Klopfenstein said Mullen just skimmed the bar, knocking it off, to almost clear 5-9 a week ago. Once she achieves that mark 5-10 is next. That’s the D-III state record set by Ottoville’s Brooke Mangas in 2016. Medina’s Taylor Burke holds the overall state record with 6-1.25 in 2011.

“She’s just a great athlete. She has a great jumping ability and it shows in basketball,” Klopfenstein said.

“She’s very coachable. She doesn’t take any time off. As she gets better you have to look at the little things to make her better yet. She picks up on those things and follows directions to get better. … Once in a while you come across an athlete that’s a joy to coach. She’s a very special athlete and a very special kid.”

Mullen started high jumping in the eight grade. During some down time at track practice boys were leaping up to touch the crossbar on the football goal posts. Mullen did it, too. A coach saw her and encouraged her to try the high jump.

“It went from there,” Mullen said.

“It’s just so much fun. Just the feeling of floating over the bar. And everyone at track is so nice.”

Mullen credits Klopfenstein with her high jump development. The duo have bonded since Klopfenstein, friends and co-workers with Mullen’s mother, held Mullen as a baby.

“I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without him. We do a lot of speed and keeping my legs straight going up to get that power,” Mullen said. “My goal last year was 5-9, so hopefully I get that this year. I want to go higher.”

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