Cam Kalaf is first Summit Tiger to jump at state in 13 years
Three-sport star reflects on making the most of his senior year
LAKEWOOD — On his first day of high school in 2017, Cam Kalaf, like so many other Summit High School freshmen, wrote a note to his future senior self. The paper he handed to his adviser consisted of two goals: Graduate with at least a 3.3 GPA and go to college to play football.
Last month, Kalaf accomplished the former, tossing his graduation cap into the air at a field he’d grown to know well — Tiger Stadium — while harboring a final 3.45 GPA. He accomplished the latter, as well, signing on to play football at Colorado Mesa University in the fall after averaging more than 200 yards passing and 72 yards rushing as a senior captain quarterback.
But in the end, Kalaf accomplished so much more than that. On Friday, he became the first Summit jumper in over a decade to compete at the Colorado High School Activities Association state championship meet.
At Jefferson County Stadium, Kalaf bowed out after clearing 5 feet, 10 inches, unable to clear the 6-foot mark. And with his high school career over, he reflected on all of his accomplishments.
“To me, my senior year has lived short of nothing,” Kalaf said. “I’d tell myself, looking at the senior me, that you’d be very proud. I never thought I’d be here. My freshman self would have never thought I would have done track at all.”
Heck, Kalaf didn’t even know three months ago that he’d become a track and field star for Summit. Back when the basketball playoffs ended for the senior forward and captain, he was considering whether to play lacrosse, try out the new rugby team or give track a shot.
Kalaf and Tigers rising senior football star Aidan Collins opted for track for the simple reason of trying to get faster for football next fall. The quarterback-wide receiver duo of Kalaf and Collins soon realized they could do up to four events, and high jump happened to be one they picked.
At the Tigers’ first meet of the season, the Rangeview Raider Kickoff May 8 in Aurora, Kalaf stunned the team, and his coaches Kristy McClain and Mike Hagen, with his ability to clear 5 feet, 11 inches.
“When I heard that 5-11, I thought, ‘That’s crazy,’” Hagen said. “‘Nobody jumps 5-11 their first year, first competition. He has to be some type of athlete to be able to do that.’ And he is — just an all-around fantastic athlete.”
When learning the fickle form of the Fosbury Flop, Kalaf leaned on his basketball background — almost simulating going in for a layup as he approached the high-jump bar. But Kalaf soon realized running, jumping and arching his back and legs over the bar was much different than rising above the rim to throw down a dunk.
On Friday, the Tigers head coach McClain couldn’t have been more giddy about Kalaf’s accomplishment. Throughout the school year, McClain taught Kalaf in college-level writing classes and asked him several times if he’d come out for the track team. Did he ever, eventually showing out with a season-best, personal-record jump of 6 feet, 3 inches earlier this month at one of the several meets he won in his rookie season.
The 6-3 mark was more than a half-foot higher than the mark Kalaf thought he’d be able to reach when he started the season. He said he was able to reach it thanks to a fateful day while working with Collins and Tigers jumping coach Rob Gannon at the start of the month. Everything clicked for Kalaf as he channeled his inner child, remembering what it was like to try backflips on a trampoline with friends.
“That was the hardest part, learning to just trust your head to fall back,” Kalaf said. “You just have to tuck and keep going.”
And keep going he did, all the way to the 4A state meet Friday, when McClain, Hagen and his mother, Carole Young, were there to support him. Young said she’s proud her son made the most of his senior year despite the difficulties of COVID-19.
And after the emotion of his final moment as a Tiger wore off, Kalaf expressed pride, as well. This may have been the final bookend on his high school journey, but what an unexpected final chapter it was.
“It’s been a ride,” he said. “It’s been a ride, for sure.”
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