By Dave Dyer
---- — Dana Burbank admits that he’s becoming a master in time management.
It’s nothing he planned but, as a school guidance counselor and — more important — the sixth-year high jump coach at North Andover, it’s a quality that has become a necessity.
“It’s a challenge getting everyone the practice time they need,” said Burbank, a 2003 North Andover graduate and the school record holder (6-7) in the high jump. “When one group is done on the (high jump) mat, I’ve got to go right to the next. Some kids want to stay longer, but they can’t.”
The problem, and this is a problem that most coaches would love to have, is that the Knights are flooded with high jumpers, about 20 overall among the boys and girls, and most of them are either quality jumpers or have good potential.
That was displayed perfectly the weekend before last when the Knights’ boys finished both first (with their so-called B group) and second (the A group) and the girls were runner-up at the state relays championships.
“Just putting in a second team was unprecedented — I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Burbank, who jumped for Stonehill College. “Then to place first and second was unreal. It was a shock.
“We have a big pool to draw from. We have some quality kids and a lot of newcomers who have improved really fast. We probably could have put in a third team that could score.”
The newcomer who has improved the most is junior Owen Jordan. Having cleared just 5-8 previously, he soared to 6-1 at the state relays, giving his trio that included Anthony Christian and Xavier Laguerre the title.
The second group that day consisted of Wynn Bourassa, Joe Staudt and Patrick Wolfgang. Bourassa is somewhat of a team leader according to Burbank while Staudt has cleared 5-10 several times and has seemed the most consistent, although Burbank can’t confirm that.
“Joe has come a long way, but I can’t say who is the most consistent,” said Burbank. “It seems like it’s someone different every meet.
“There is definitely a lot of talent. After every meet, I’m reporting the (high jump) scores as 9-0 or 8-1 for us.”
On the girls side, sophomore Catherine Flaherty leads a talented corps. She cleared 5-2 on a consistent basis last year and already owns the school record at 5-6.
The volume of talented jumpers feeds on itself by creating competition within the ranks. “I know that motivates me,” said Staudt. “It makes you want to work a little harder.”
But it’s not just raw talent that has elevated the Knights according to Staudt, who was mainly a hurdler last year. Burbank has a lot to do with it, too.
“Coach Burbank is amazing,” he said. “None of us would be where we are without him. He gives us good advice and he pushes us, but he knows when to stop, when you’ve done it enough.”
According to Burbank, knowing when to stop jumping to wait for another day is important.
“Beyond natural talent, to be a good high jumper, you need to have a willingness to learn and have patience,” he said. “If you knock the bar down — and everybody does it — you need to try again, and maybe not right away, and not get frustrated. A lot of it is mental.”
Whatever the case, it may be time to anoint the Knights.
Why not? Penn State was known in college football for years as “Linebacker U” for its outstanding linebackers and Stanford is among a number of schools claiming to be “Quarterback U.”
In a similar vein, for the time being, it’d probably be appropriate to call North Andover “High jump Central.”