URBANA – Urbana High School has produced 20 individual state champions in track and field.
Senior high jumper Mykhail Chambers is making a bid to become No. 21.
Chambers' top leap of 6 feet, 10 inches is the best in the state this spring, according to Illinois Prep Top Times. That's heady territory, putting the two-time state qualifier in position to add to Urbana's lore. Though 20 boys have won titles, only four came in the last half-century: Thom Walters in the 1961 440-yard dash; Steve Shafer in the 1970 discus; Tyke Peacock in the 1979 high jump; and Doug Phebus in the 1989 discus.
Peacock's name sticks out in one sense because he's Chambers' cousin. And Peacock still holds the Urbana school record of 7-2 1/4.
"Getting that (school record) and winning state has been a dream since freshman year," Chambers said. "I'd like to kill two birds with one stone, maybe do it at the state meet. But I do think about it a lot, especially now as I approach 7 feet. I do feel it's in my grasp because I'm so close every time I try it."
Chambers, who has signed with Georgia Tech, has become a more consistent performer this spring, despite having missed the winter season while playing for the Urbana basketball team. He can consistently reach 6-10 now, and he believes 7 feet and beyond is only a matter of time. May's warmer weather, with an absence of wind, could facilitate that effort.
That's rare territory, and usually one that is good enough for a state title.
"What's very encouraging for him is that he's gone undefeated," Urbana coach Harbert Jones said. "A couple meets he didn't jump 6-10, but the conditions weren't ideal. We've talked about a couple things we want to adjust to see if that makes a difference in these next couple of weeks. That's what we're working on."
The next few weeks will offer Chambers a chance to pull off his goals. He's an athlete who has shined in big meets in the past, finishing second as a sophomore in the 2006 state meet. He was sixth last season while battling an injury.
He's also fueled by competition. Chambers said he allows himself to peek at how the state's other top jumpers are faring; it often seems to spark something in him.
"I may not watch them jump when it comes time to compete, but I'm always checking the results and seeing who's doing what – (and) how much harder I need to work," he said.
A summer of consistent strength training has improved his power, and Chambers says he's comfortable with his technique. All that remains is to pull off the big jumps on the big stages – and perhaps etch his name into the Urbana record books as a state champion.
"I think about it a lot. I won't lie," Chambers said. "I try to take it one meet at a time. But I do think about it a lot."