SOUTH CHINA — Erskine Academy senior Jade Canak is ready to make the next jump in her athletic career.

One of the state’s best horizontal leapers, Canak will take her talents to Division I St. Francis University (PA) in the fall.

“It felt good to commit to a school,” said Canak, who chose St. Francis over Franklin Pierce University. “The college search in general is high anxiety, so it feels good to commit and not have that anxiety anymore about choosing a school.

“…I’m nervous, but at the same time I’m very excited.”

Canak said athletics was only part of her decision to commit to the Loretto, Pa. school, as it also offers her major, Zoo and Aquarium Science.

“In second grade the first essay I ever wrote was about wanting to be a zoologist,” she said. “I’ve known for a while. It might change, but hopefully I can stick with it.”

This past winter at the Class B Indoor Track State Championship Canak was second in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump, and also competed at the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Track Center in Boston.

Canak said that it was around that time she made up her mind that St. Francis was the right place for her.

“I did an overnight just three or four months ago and that’s when I really made my decision after spending a night there,” said Canak, who was hosted by freshman Taylor King-Brothers on the visit. “I got to stay in the freshman dorm and experience what she experiences everyday.”

The Red Flash were obviously impressed with the Erskine senior’s abilities as well to offer her a spot, but St. Francis coach Doug Hoover said he thought Canak was a good fit for his program for more than just her athletic talents.

“She’s a good jumper No. 1, obviously that is what got our attention to start with,” Hoover said. “At St. Francis we’re looking for young men and women who are good student athletes that bring something to the table athletically and academically.

“Jade certainly fits that bill. A great student, great athlete. We’re looking for men and women of character and Jade is that. She brings a lot to the table in terms of her commitments to academics, athletics and to her teammates.”

As far as where she fits in on the team, Hoover is not ruling out that she could do some running but will predominately focus on the long and triple jumps.

“We always try to keep an open mind,” Hoover said. “At this level, you do need to specialize for the most part. We’re anticipating using her in the horizontal jumps, but we are going to keep an open mind.

“…We’re confident she’ll get into a scoring position within the next year or so. We’re trying to help each athlete develop as athletes and students, but obviously from an athletic position we hope that puts them in scoring position.”

As it is with any collegiate athlete, there is always a transition period one must go through in their freshman year. For jumpers though, there tends to be a bit more of a curve.

Most elite high school jumpers get to where they are mainly because of their athletic ability — they can run faster up the ramp and flat out jump farther.

More often than not, once jumpers get to college they begin learning more technique that takes some time to get down before they begin reaping the benefits. Hoover did say, however, if anyone is prepared for that adjustment, it’s Canak.

“It’s a transition to be made in a lot of ways and then you add the academic load that generally increases for students (compared to high school),” Hoover said. “It can be a challenging transition. I’m very confident with Jade that she’s going to make that transition as smoothly as possible. She’s someone of character who I’m very confident can make that transition as well as it can be made.”

As for the immediate future, Canak and her Erskine teammates will compete in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference B championships Saturday at Morse High School. Canak is the favorite to defend her title in the long jump.

Evan Crawley——621-5640 | [email protected] | Twitter: @Evan_Crawley