FLHS Long Jumper Shatters School Record En Route to Nationals
Senior George Alexandris is the first Fair Lawn High School athlete to qualify for the New Balance Indoor Nationals since 1998.
Track phenom George Alexandris cemented his legacy this winter as the greatest long jumper in Fair Lawn High School history.
The three-sport senior, who will compete this Friday at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City, shattered not only the school's indoor long jump record by more than a foot this winter, he's also jumped farther than any high school athlete in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Essex, Morris, Sussex and 11 other New Jersey counties.
Alexandris' personal best jump of 22 feet, 7 1/4 inches, which registered a ridiculous 9 1/4 inches longer than any other jump landed in Bergen County this winter, came in January at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Field Festival.
As Alexandris tells it, he almost didn't land it at all.
"I had fouled the previous two jumps and they were pretty long jumps, too, so everybody was like, 'Oh, he’s getting out there,'" he recalled. "Going into the third jump I knew I had to get a mark in."
Fiercely determined, the senior sprinted down the lane toward the pit on his final attempt, making sure this time to lift off behind the line. The rest, as they say, is Fair Lawn High School history.
"When I did the jump, everybody was like 'Ooohhh!" he smiled. "They were all screaming."
The tale of Alexandris' record jump, landed successfully after two promising faults, is a fitting microcosm of the track star's high school career.
The senior had shown flashes of exceptional talent during his first three high school campaigns, but a lack of focus prevented him from fully realizing his potential until this year.
"My freshman and sophomore year my head wasn't on straight, I guess you could say, in the classroom and in track," Alexandris said. "I wasn't taking it too serious."
That all began to change late last year when Alexandris said he started thinking more about his future. The difference in the 18-year-old's work ethic and dedication, his coaches say, has been remarkable.
"We’ve had discussions about this, how kids find out too late that, 'Oh I wish I did this, I should have done this. If I did this, I could have been here," assistant winter track coach John Van Soest said. "It’s like George caught it before that time. He got his focus, got everything on straight before it was too late and it’s allowed him these opportunities that he’s having right now."
As recently as December, Alexandris had no college plans or scholarship offers. Today, less than three months later, he's coming off a straight-A marking period and East Stroudsburg, Monmouth and SUNY-Albany are all in hot pursuit. Alexandris said he's already been accepted to and visited all three schools, and expects to decide where he'll attend within the month.
"The term 'Hard work pays off' was case in point with this guy," said Van Soest, whose favorite Alexandris story is the time he took third place at the state sectionals after jumping six feet in the high jump, an event he hadn't even practiced all year.
"Where did that come from?" said Van Soest, who inserted Alexandris into the high jump on the spur of the moment because the state meet didn't offer a long jump event. "Here's a 5'8" guy jumping six feet all of a sudden and not even practicing all year. It's just a tribute to all the hard work he’s put in."
Alexandris will be the first Fair Lawn track athlete to compete at Nationals in 15 years when he jumps Friday at the Armory against some of the best high school competitors from across the country. He said he's looking to improve on his jump last week at Easterns, where he flew 22 feet, 3 1/2 inches to take sixth in a field of the East Coast's 64-best high school long jumpers.
"I’m more excited than nervous, just because it's my first time and no one expects me to do anything," he said Monday, in between practice jumps.
Whether or not Jumpin' George's competitors expect him to bring it Friday, the now-steadfast senior expects big things from himself.
"[This] came out of nowhere to a lot of people," he said of his historic season. "But for me, I saw it coming."
Born Too Late
Here's a cool New York Times video/graphic that shows the medalling long jumps for each year in Olympic history. If George Alexandris had lived only 117 years earlier, he would have been an Olympic gold medalist!