By Greg Ford
MURPHY — There are parts of the body that can make or break an athlete’s career.
When healthy, they give a person the ability to cut, jump and move with alacrity.
When not at a 100 percent, they can limit one’s chances of accomplishing anything on the field of play.
They are the knees, and throughout the history of sports, they, by far, have played the greatest role in cutting short an athlete’s career.
It was an injury to one of Michael Madu’s knees that had the Murphy resident and Plano East senior questioning whether he’d have a shot at making the 2015 state track meet after barely missing out in 2014. However, Madu battled through his rehabilitation and continued to perform strongly in the long jump and triple jump.
A little less than two weeks ago, Madu finally put full trust in his recovering limb and leaped his way to first place in the Class 6A, Region II triple jump, earning him a spot at state.
“Last year, I missed by a quarter of an inch,” Madu said. “That was really tough, but at the same time I (set a personal record), so I went into the offseason with a lot of confidence.”
He added, “I hadn’t trusted (my knee) the entire season until (regionals). I really went in and (gave 100 percent), and the result was good.”
That “good” was a personal-best mark of 49-00.50, which is the second-best leap coming out of regionals behind the defending state champ, Kerwin Roach of Galena North Shore (50-02.00).
Madu got to that point with a lot of effort, including working out this past December with his sister Jennifer, who won four gold medals at the 2012 state meet and is now competing at Texas A&M University.
“She was kind of the one who helped me overcome the hump, I guess,” Madu said. “I slowly started working out and slowly got back into shape.”
He added, “She herself was kind of hurt (foot), and having her there and knowing she was overcoming her own injury … She showed me things they do at A&M to ease the pain when you have an injury. That really helped, and knowing I had somebody else with me really helped.”
Now, Madu, who recently signed with Texas State University, spends his morning working out at McMillen High School under the tutelage of coach Brian Vincer.
“We could tell (his knee) was bothering him earlier in the season,” Vincer said. “We had to adjust a little of his technique, and change up his steps to accommodate (it). But, he is the toughest kid who I have ever coached, honestly. He overcame all of it and is in a great position now.”
Vincer is helping Madu refine his technique with the hope of making a top-three (medal) finish in Austin. The 6A boys’ triple jump is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Mike Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.
“To get a top-three (finish) you will definitely have to jump in the high 48s, and to win you will definitely have to jump over 50,” Madu said. “That’s always how it is every year.”
A year ago, Roach won state with a leap of 50-02.25.
“I really feel (Michael) has a really great chance of getting in the top three, for sure,” Vincer said. “He’s probably one of the most technical jumpers that I have ever seen, at any level. Honestly, with the way he’s working and building on the momentum from (regionals), I think he’s got a great shot to compete for No. 1.”