Woodland’s Lang is a triple jumping threat
BEACON FALLS — Woodland’s Mike Lang won the Naugatuck Valley League indoor high jump championship in January. If you hadn’t seen the event and judged only by Lang’s expression afterwards, you’d have no idea.
See, Lang only jumped 5 feet, 8 inches that day, far from his best leap. The gold medal — he earned three on the day en route to the Most Outstanding Performer award — he carried felt dirty, in a way.
“I have to perform at a college level all the time,” Lang says. “I want to try to get a track scholarship.”
Success in jumping has become much more than a want for Lang.
“I need it,” he says.
Lang, a junior, has already established himself as one of the great athletes in Woodland history in less than three full seasons. He’s been the consensus top male track athlete in the NVL for the better part of two years and is likely on track for three more gold medals at the league’s outdoor championships later this month.
He’s been All-NVL, All-State and All-New England. Last week, a 22-plus-foot long jump qualified him for the Emerging Elite Nationals, but he wants to make the full national meet so he can be an undisputed All-American.
All in all, it’s not too bad for a guy who decided to join the track team as a freshman because he had nothing else to do.
“Freshman year I did it just to do it, but then I got really into it,” Lang says. “Indoor my sophomore year I was decent, and then in outdoor it exploded for me. I started looking up numbers to see the levels I should be at.”
Those marks were even better than he thought. It became apparent that college track was well within the realm of possibility, and he started pushing toward it. But Lang says the type of pushing he can do in his three jumping events — high, long and triple — is different than can be seen on other fields and courts.
“In other sports you can just push through it and get tougher by pushing. In jumping it’s all about technique and muscle memory,” Lang says. “You can’t just muscle through jumping. If you have perfect form you can jump much better than a guy who’s just strong and jumps with no form.”
As he hits the final month of the regular season, he has his jumping coach, Adam Schultz, back after the University of New Haven’s spring football practices ended.
“We’re starting to get back into things,” Lang says. “He wants me to push into triple jump more because he says I’m not doing it right. I want to get up to 45 (feet) and go for the school record.”
Lang says the long jump is his favorite of the leaps — “it’s a lot easier,” he says — but he’s almost as good on the track as he is in the sand pit. He’s an above-average sprinter in both individual and relay events and enjoys the opportunities he gets away from the field events.
“I love being part of a relay and helping my team,” Lang says. “I like getting out there to run a 100 and 200. I do whatever the team needs me to do. If Coach (Tim Shea) says, ‘You’re running the 400-meter dash today, Lang!’ I go out there and do it.”
At least once a year, Lang gets a chance to do every event when he competes in the decathlon. Last year, he was the highest-placing underclassman at the state decathlon when he finished ninth, winning the long jump in the process.
“I wish I could do a decathlon every day,” Lang says. “When I first did pole vault, my basic thought was that if I fell back and cracked my head, I had fun doing it. You can’t be scared of it.”
Lang plans to study computer science and pursue a career in video game design once he picks his college. The list of schools in which he’s interested is impressive: Penn, NC State, Miami, Michigan State, Bucknell and South Florida, to start.
In the meantime, he’ll keep on racking up the awards and dealing with the praise.
“After I accomplish something big, I want to come back and do even better. My coaches and teammates give me motivation,” Lang says. “It’s a great feeling when teammates come up and say, ‘You broke the meet record!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”