It didn’t take long for Keymo Pearson to realize Arielle Boone oozed potential when she joined his AAU track club last spring.
“Day 1, when I saw her…I said, ‘Hey, if this girl stays with the team, she’s going to be great.’ My exact words were, ‘She has the chance to be one of the best jumpers in Pasco County history,’” said Pearson, an assistant track coach at the Wesley Chapel-based Speed Starz Track Club.
Turns out the coach’s assessment is pretty spot on.
Boone will compete this weekend in both the high jump and triple jump events in New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory Track and Field Center in New York City.
A senior at Sunlake High School, Boone will join more than 3,500 of the country’s best track and field student-athletes, from more than 40 states and Canadian provinces — each looking to run, hurdle, jump, throw and walk their way to titles and All-American honors in 48 boys’ and girls’ championship events.
The event runs from March 9 through March 11.
Boone qualified for the prestigious competition after posting elite qualifying marks in triple jump (39’ 2.5) and long jump (18’ 2.5) at recent AAU meets in Orlando and Birmingham, Alabama.
She is believed to be just the second track and field athlete from Pasco County to ever compete in the national event. The other is former Pasco High star Alfreda Steele, who qualified in 2014. Steele now is a sprinter and jumper at the University of Miami.
Boone isn’t nervous about the big stage, despite squaring up alongside countless future Division I track starts and possibly some Olympians-in-the-making.
Instead, she’s poised to hold her own — especially after going toe-to-toe with such athletes at AAU meets throughout the summer and fall.
“I’m not worried about it. I’m just there to compete and to get my marks,” said Boone, who acknowledged she used to be intimidated, when she first began training for AAU meets in the spring and summer.
A former gymnast, Boone joined her high school track team as a freshman at the behest of former Sunlake track coach Nick Carroll, now the head football coach at Zephyrhills High School.
“Coach was like, ‘If you’re one of my fastest girls, you have to run for me, OK?’ Like, he really pursued me. He wanted me to run track. And, I was like, ‘You know what? My dad’s been telling me that for years, so I’ll try it,’ and I ended up being pretty decent, so I stuck with it,” Boone explained.
Early on in her high school career, Boone mainly competed in sprints, such as the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, and the 4×100 relay.
It wasn’t until last season she took field events seriously.
The leap into those events — especially the triple jump — was bred out of pure curiosity.
Said Boone, “Triple jump seemed so complicated and just difficult, which it is. It’s the hardest event track puts on your body. I just wanted to see how it works; I had no idea.”
Sunlake girls track coach Trey Burdick said Boone’s jumping numbers really took off toward the end the 2017 season.
“Something clicked at districts last year,” Burdick said.
All of sudden, Boone started hitting personal records of 2 feet, then 4 feet in the triple jump, and that’s something you don’t usually see, Burdick added.
Boone firmly solidified herself at the Class 3A state championships as one of the state’s top jumpers after securing a ninth-place finish in the triple jump (then a 36’ 11.25), just one spot away from podium honors.
She was also named named the Sunshine Athletic Conference’s Girls Field Athlete of the Year.
“I was just like, ‘Wow, I have been doing this event for not even six months, and I got this close. Next year I’m going to wreck it. That’s what I really want to do,’” Boone said.
After the season Boone joined Speed Starz to work one-on-one with Pearson, himself a former college track and field standout at Kansas-based Friends University and Independence Community College. He serves as an assistant with BB Roberts, who founded the AAU club in 2013.
Pearson trained Boone on core strength, plyometric movements, and shoring up her bounding technique to make her an even better jumper.
“I saw that she was very explosive, and that was really what drew my attention,” Pearson said.
“Just seeing the talent that she had without an offseason training, it just was like, ‘Wow, I know the drills that I’m going to give her is going to make her that much better as an athlete.’”
“I had to bound my way into becoming a really good triple-jumper,” Boone said. It’s a lot of training involved. It’s an event that you can’t play with it. You have to do a lot.”
After the national competition, Boone will go back to focusing on her final high school season.
In addition to Sunlake High records in the triple jump (38’ 9.5) and high jump (17’ 9.75), Boone also claims school records in the 200 meters (26.32 seconds) — which she’s owned since her freshman year — and as a leg on the 4×100 relay (49.55 seconds).
Burdick noted Boone could soon own the school record in the 100 meters, once she gets the chance to run the event. High school track athletes are allowed to compete in a maximum of four events per meet.
“She’s probably the reason why we’re the favorite to win conference this year,” Burdick said.
“She’s one of those athletes that if I could put her in six (events) I’d put her in six. She’s a guaranteed first place in at least three of her events every meet, and most of the times it’s four.”
Boone’s recent emergence, meanwhile, has the caught the eyes of multiple Division I college track programs statewide.
She’s picked up scholarship offers from South Florida, Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities.
Boone said she plans to spend the next month visiting colleges before making a decision by the time the spring singing period begins on April 11.
Whichever program Boone chooses, those coaches will be getting a dedicated and focused athlete.
“She catches on really fast — that’s what’s great about her. She listens, she’s disciplined, and she actually works on those things on her own so it makes it that much easier,” Pearson explained.
“Motivation’s never been an issue for her,” Burdick said. “She’s always came to practice everyday and is just like strictly business, ‘This is what we need to get done today’ and boom that’s what she’s doing.’”
“She knows (the) drills, she picks up on them, and she knows how to go out there and do it without me telling her,” he added.
Published March 7, 2018