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Calvin duo jumps into record books
By Abe Huyser-Honig
High jump competition - click photo for larger image

Sometimes good things come in pairs. That’s certainly been true for this year’s high-jumping duo of Derek Kleinheksel, Hamilton, Mich. and Cameron Baron, or Lake Stevens, Wash. At numerous meets they’ve demonstrated an almost uncanny sort of teamwork, frequently going out at the exact same heights as one another.

They make a rather odd couple in terms of personality: Kleinheksel is quiet, gentle, composed, while Baron radiates energy and intensity. But the results show that something clicks between these two. “They push each other,” says head men’s track coach Jong-Il Kim. “They compete with each other, and at the same time support each other. It’s a healthy competition.”

Kim says Derek often plays the role of an older brother, helping the younger Baron to maintain composure in what can be a very intense and emotional event. “In high school, there wasn’t another good high jumper [for me to practice with],” says Baron. “Now in college, with Coach Kim trying to deal with every event, it’s nice to have an experienced coach like Derek to point things out to me.”

Kleinheksel’s third-place finish at the national meet this spring caps off a remarkably successful and memorable college track career. In the course of his four years at Calvin, Kleinheksel has jumped his way to three All-MIAA titles (1999, 2000, 2001), two MIAA individual championships (2000, 2001), and three appearances at Nationals (1999, 2000, 2001). In 1999 he placed seventh with a jump at nationals of 6-6 ¾ and he earned All-American honors again in 2000 with a fifth-place jump of 6-8 ½. He saved the best for last, however, placing third with a 6-9 leap this spring. Kleinheksel’s automatic-qualifying jump of 6’9 ½” on Friday, May 18, 2001 at North Central College brought him to the rank of the second-highest jumper in Calvin history.

Kleinheksel also played basketball all four years at Calvin, and was a member of the 2000 NCAA Div. III National Championship team. Playing basketball prevented Kleinheksel from practicing high jump at all in the winter, and caused him to start the track season late. However, Coach Kim never discouraged him from playing basketball, but rather urged that if he was going to play he should do his absolute best.

The track team will certainly miss Kleinheksel, who graduated this year with a degree in business and is beginning his professional career with a position at John Hancock Financial Services (Grandville). Kleinheksel is a man of few words, but his hard work every day on the track has proved his leadership more than any words could. “He’s a good athlete, but he’s also a good person,” says Coach Kim. “Everyone likes him.”

Kleinheksel leaves with fond memories of his own. “It [the track team] has a great atmosphere,” says Kleinheksel. “Everyone gets along very well…it’s like a family, almost.”

Kleinheksel leaves Calvin high jumping in good hands. Baron, who so far in his college career has not quite matched a stupendous high school state-championship-winning jump of 6-10, nevertheless feels that his strength and technique are improving. His jump of 6-9 at a meet earlier this year at the University of Michigan brought Baron to number four on Calvin’s all-time list, and he was also a member of the All-MIAA team this year. “Life is about setting the bar higher every time,” says Baron, “and high jump is the quintessential of that.”

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