It wasn’t quite like the famed “Flu Game” from Michael Jordan in the 1997 NBA Finals, but Canyon jumper Tyler Cash put on a memorable performance while under the weather at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
Cash felt congested and fatigued when he woke up on Thursday and was nervous about competing in the prelims on Friday because he was feeling so ill. By the time the finals rolled around on Saturday, he had little to no voice left.
“I was so scared for Friday because I didn’t feel good at all. I just took a ton of medicine, drank tea in the morning before Friday and Saturday,” Cash said. “But I got into the right mindset for the competition. After the competition I just felt like crud again.”
If Cash had any voice left before the start of Saturday’s boys high jump event, it was certainly gone by the time it was over.
The junior screamed at the top of his lungs after he cleared the 6-10 mark, setting a new personal and school record.
“I told myself on Friday before I even competed on Saturday, if I get 6-10 or a PR I’m just going to walk away from the pit like nothing happened, but I made 6-10 and I couldn’t handle myself I was so excited,” he said. “That was my goal, to beat the school record. I screamed so loud I couldn’t control myself I was so happy.”
Cash finished in second place behind Beau Allen of San Marcos High School, who cleared 6-11 on his first attempt.
The Canyon jumper had barely qualified the day before, getting the last spot in the competition after winning a jump off in prelims.
To go from narrowly qualifying for the finals to finishing in second place in the state took Cash on quite an emotional rollercoaster.
“It was a very emotional weekend because of how close I came to not making it to the finals and then how close I came to winning. Just super crazy, hectic weekend but it all happened for a reason,” he said.
Because Cash was the last jumper to qualify, he was slated to go first on every height, but he calmly cleared 6-5, followed by 6-7, then 6-8 and 6-9 all on his first attempts.
By the time the bar had reached 6-10, only Cash and Allen cleared it, as the two went head to head for the state title.
“Jumping first put a little less pressure on me because I didn’t see what the other people were jumping,” Cash said. “It felt good, every jump just clicked for me and everything came together at the right time. It was just amazing.”
Cash had a great amount of support in the crowd from family, coaches and teammates.
At the state meet it was his brother TJ Cash, a former basketball player at Santa Clarita Christian School, who really helped him keep his composure as the tension rose with every jump.
Cash made eye contact with his brother, who was standing behind the high jump pit on a grassy knoll, before every jump. The elder Cash reminded his younger brother to stay cool and collected, even though he couldn’t help but scream with joy after every jump his younger sibling completed.
“Having everybody there was amazing. My brother is super supportive, I think if you heard anybody yelling, I think my brother was yelling the loudest,” Cash said laughing. “I looked over at him and he told me before I jumped, he told me to breathe, and I think that helped me a lot in my jump. Having my brother there really helped.”
His brother also makes sure that everyone knows Cash’s nickname, “Skywalker.”
“A reporter from The Signal commented hashtag Skywalker, and my parents thought it was awesome and my brother carried it out,” Cash said. “He would yell, ‘That’s my brother, it’s Skywalker.’ He’s the reason that name got a little bit bigger, it’s an awesome name.”
Cash has lofty goals for the summer, starting with the New Balance Nationals Outdoor competition in Greensboro, North Carolina in June. He will also be among the favorites for the state title in high jump as a senior next year.
His goal is to break the state record held by Lee Balkin, who completed a jump of 7-3 1/2 at the CIF State meet back in 1979.
Even though Cash and Balkin are separated in age by close to four decades, both share a special bond. Canyon head coach Paul Broneer, Cash’s current coach, also coached Balkin at Glendale High School.
“My coaches were super proud of me, coach (Paul) Broneer especially. He’s the one who put so much time into me,” Cash said. “Learning that my coach coached Lee Balkin, the state record holder, that amazes me too. I’m excited to keep my coach’s legacy going and make him proud because he put a lot of time and effort in me.”
While Cash’s short-term goals are set for the next couple of years, he has one ultimate long-term goal that he will continue to strive for.
It’s what pushes him to get in the gym everyday, even on the Monday after the state meet, still congested and with a scratchy voice.
“I’m super happy that I’m hitting these marks as a junior, it motivates me to get better because when I get a mark I never get complacent,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until I’m the best in the world. That’s my goal for my life, hopefully make it to the Olympics.”