By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – There are some advantages to being the little brother.
Take Seth Alexander, for example. Baby brother to Sawyer.
Both are/were jumpers extraordinaire for Denmark High School and before that as youngsters in the Lakeshore Lutheran Track and Field League.
Sawyer, by virtue of being the elder by three years, was forced to set the marks and thereby set the targets for Seth to shoot at. Sure, Seth still had to accomplish the feats.
But he knew what to aim for, knew exactly how far he had to soar.
And the immutable, inescapable and maybe even unfair fact of the matter is, that if Seth could pull it off, there wasn’t anything Sawyer could do but grimace, then smile, then accept, then congratulate his younger sib.
And, sure enough, Seth not only eclipsed his brother’s records in both the triple jump and the long jump in the Lakeshore League, he also surpassed him for a new Denmark High School record last season in the long jump.
As a junior, he still has a season-and-a-half left to further solidify his name in the school record books.
When Seth leaped 20 feet, 10 inches on May 1 last year to edge out Sawyer’s previous school-best mark by three inches, he admits to being excited.
“My dad and I sent (Sawyer) a text when it happened,” Seth remembers with a laugh. “He told me he was happy, but I knew it burned a little. But overall I know he’s proud of me.”
Seth Alexander is one of those athletes whose competitiveness and basic decency seem to sometimes be in conflict. After all, you have to have a little cold-heartedness in you to reach certain goals, to maximize your potential, to, umm, usurp your own brother. Folks are going to have to be beaten, and your joy will probably come at another’s expense.
Paul Annear, four-time high school state high jump champion, two-time state champ in both the long and triple jumps and former Wisconsin Badger track star, says Seth Alexander has the perfect perspective on such things.
“You can be that nice guy,” says Annear, who for the past two years has helped coach Seth with his jumps. “And he definitely is a genuinely great kid who will listen and take advice. But you have to have that killer instinct. Nice guys kind of have to turn that switch and block everything out and focus. He can do that.”
Seth Alexander is a multi-event threat as well as a multi-sport athlete. His is a wideout for the Denmark football team and a guard on the basketball team. As a track-and-field team member, he has at various times competed in the 100, the 200, the long jump and the triple jump as well as the 4×100, the 4×200 and even the 4×400 relays. He has victories in all of those except for the 4×200 and the 200.
Perhaps his greatest feat to date came in the North Eastern Conference triple jump last May when, having competed only once in that event all spring and having only decided a few days earlier to toss his name on the list, won the league crown by better than three inches, posting a personal best mark of 40-04.50.
“That was a surprise,” Seth says before thinking a little longer on the circumstances of the accomplishment and adding, “Well, that was actually a big shocker. I pretty much went in cold.”
His father, Jeff, was the one to finally coax him into entering the event. Jeff Alexander was also an accomplished triple and long jumper and passed along his passions to Seth and Sawyer.
“He told me, ‘I remember you setting that record (at the Lakeshore League meet) and why don’t you just try it?’” Seth recalls. “I remember my form was not good at all. It was really like I was still just long jumping.”
Seth was fifth last year in the conference long jump before nearly matching his school record to finish third at the sectionals, which qualified him for state where he finished 10th. Hopes for a state championship this year are not misplaced – though are perhaps premature — when you look at all the numbers. Alexander’s past three long jumps have gone past 21 feet. None were better than his 21-06.50 at the Luxemburg-Casco Tri on April 16, a new school record by more than eight inches. He has won the event in all five of his competitions in 2019.
More striking is a glance at last year’s top 12 at state. Eight were seniors and two other underclassmen appear not to be competing this year. That leaves Alexander (10th last year), Hayward’s Chase Roehl (5th), who has yet to reach 20 feet in 2019 outdoors and, Whitewater’s Sashi Popke (7th), who according to athletic.net, has competed only in the pole vault this season. The only other top competitor returning from last year’s state long jump event is Rice Lake’s DeAirus Clerveaux (14th last year, but with a leap of 21-03 this season). All things being equal, Alexander would have to be considered a good shot for the podium (by finishing in the top six).
It is also notable that last year’s winning mark of 21-09.50 is a mere three inches better than Alexander’s current personal best.
“With Seth, you’ve definitely got that good mix of finesse and power,” says Annear, who himself was a two-time Nike high school All-American. “That’s definitely what you want. He got that (long jump) record in cold weather. When the weather warms up its amazing how much higher he can go. He definitely has the potential to flirt with 22 feet.
“The other thing about him is he is also dedicated and extremely coachable. He has that want and desire and that will allow him to squeak out every inch of his potential.”
Learning From Others
Seth hasn’t just taken advice or learned from Annear. He was humble enough as a freshman at Denmark to pay attention to how the older stars went about their business, both from his own school and from around the league and area.
“I remember coming in my freshman year there were a lot of big names,” he says. “We had Wyatt Gezella, who was one of the fastest guys at school, and there was (sprinter) Noah Bielinski and Sawyer. They had it figured out. I was a little freshman and all I did was watch what they did. I’d watch those (top high- and triple jumpers) from Little Chute and Freedom. And one of my good buddies was Tanner (Schlender) from Brillion and I always wanted to see how he warmed up.
“Coach (Denmark track coach) Neuman always says warming up is the key.”
The triple jump remains a work in progress for Alexander. It is, by all accounts, a whole other animal from the long jump, requiring strength and so much more.
“Right now, Seth needs to work on going into the third jump,” Annear says. “The triple jump is one hundred percent form, strength and timing and more immature athletes can’t handle the landing on that second phase. The triple jump is a man’s event. You have to attack it. You can’t let it come to you.
“We haven’t had a lot of time to focus on working on that but I’m excited to see where he goes from here. He has big potential.”
Clearly, he does. His 40-04.50 at the NEC meet last spring is exactly one foot off Ryan Gronke’s 1994 school record. This season, in one of only three attempts in the event, Alexander approached his own mark when he went 39-11 to win at the Luxemburg-Casco Invite.
But for now, it is the long jump where Alexander’s passion lay. He has the technique down and that allows him, according to Annear, to focus on honing the small details that can make a difference between reaching the podium – or even winning – at state. Alexander says he is still working to get stronger and to improve his approach and form. Annear, he says, helps him not only with technique but keeps him from developing bad habits.
As for the future, Alexander says he has received some interest from smaller schools.
“Track is something I love,” he says. “It’s my favorite sport. I like it because it’s a team sport, but you can get recognized for your own accomplishments. We all make each other better.
“So if I can one day get a scholarship for doing something I love, that would be so great.”