When he was in eighth grade, Carl Heinz would always take a detour on his way home from school. He would sneak inside of the Oak Park-River Forest High School field house to watch track practice. There he would then pick 1st year high jump coach Danielle Dobias-Wagner's mind with questions about the high jump.
He had a love for track and field when he started participating in that in sixth grade as believe it or not a distance runner. It was the challenge of the high jump that he liked and wanted to excel in. Four years later, he enters his final year of track field at the Oak Park high school looking to defend his state championship in the high jump as well as getting a team trophy with a little help from his teammates.
Maybe it was destiny that brought Heinz to where he is now, a defending state champion and an All-American in the high jump. Heinz showed great promise when he entered Oak Park River-Forest High school in the fall of 2008. The highest he cleared in the high jump was 5-9 in eighth grade. “When you clear 5-9 in eighth grade, you think you are all right,” said Heinz.
A year later he cleared 6-5 to qualify for the state meet, a big-time achievement for a freshman. It is even bigger factoring in how technical of an event it is. “When I jumped that, my confidence shot up,” Heinz continued. “Once you realize that height gets you downstate, you realize you are in an entirely different league.”
“The one thing about Carl is that he makes adjustments. He has learned how to do that,” stated Dobias-Wagner. “In his freshman and sophomore year, he was kind of a head case. The sound of the spikes on some tracks would get to him. I would see him unscrewing his spikes between his second and third attempts. By design, he has learned how to adjust and has done a great job.”
It finally clicked for Heinz when he returned to the state meet in his sophomore season. During the year, he was struggling with clearing 6-6. At the state meet, he cleared a personal best height of 6-9 placing him fifth.
“His PR at the state meet his soph year was a HUGE deal. I don’t think he realized that it was going to happen,” his coach stated. “It was a beautiful perfect storm that placed him there and I think in his mind that no one PR’s at the state meet. The conditions usually aren’t that great there. I think he realized he needed to be confident to happen the way that they did.”
“I was thinking about that 6-6 barrier too much before state meet,” said Heinz. “It was just a matter if I could clear that height. It wasn’t about improvement but it was about consistency. I didn’t find that until the state meet that year.”
That 6-9 clearance got the mental albatross off of his mind. How do you coach that for a high jumper? Dobias-Wagner had a simple answer.
“You cannot give an athlete confidence. I can tell him a million things that should boost his confidence. You can have a paper interview him or this and that,” she said. “So that builds him up so that he learns how to perform.”
The confidence carried him to a new level last season. Early in the outdoor season, he cleared 7-0 at the Hinsdale Relays.
“Nothing was in my mind on that day. I took the ACT that morning. I really wasn’t thinking too much. I did my jumps in the Triple jump and headed over to the High Jump pit. Then the sun came out,” Heinz said. “It was just a feeling. It was awesome. After I cleared that, I just wanted to keep going. I felt so great on that day.”
That new confidence carried over to the state meet. It did not affect him that the schedule was pushed ahead so that the meet. “I don’t remember that part of the meet. I was kind of in a zone. All I know was that I wanted to get the jumps in before the rain came,” he said.
What did get his attention was that he missed his first two attempts at 6-5.
“I was a little over confident. I didn’t overanalyze what I was doing wrong,” he said. “I knew I had to clear that height to get a medal and then do big things.”
He cleared on his third attempt, and then he took off. He went on to capture the individual championship by clearing 6-10.
Sometimes you find an arrogance in athlete after that have achieved a state championship or even higher. The kind of thing that glows from them that everything should revolve around me. Not with Heinz.
“Carl is so team oriented,” Oak Park-River Forest head coach Tim Hasso said. “At last year’s state meet. We realized after we did not finish in the 4 x 2 relay that we did not have a chance for a team trophy. We went to Carl in the dorm that night and said that he did not have to compete in the triple jump the next day. Just concentrate on the high jump.”
“Does he want to do the long jump/triple? No.” added Dobias-Wagner. “He got us some points in the triple jump at some meets last year. Will he compete in those events this year? Yes. He will do whatever his coaches ask of him. If he knows he can score points for the team, he will be willing to do it.”
Heinz knows what can happen this year. The pieces are there for the Huskies to contest for a trophy at the state meet this year. Along with Heinz is fellow senior Malachy Schrobilgen, who placed second in the 3,200 last spring. The focus on this team is to see what will happen this season to get them to the point of getting a top-three finish in Charleston. The pieces are there with Distance runners Evan Fisher, Nick Reyes, and fellow High Jumper Harrison Gay with the possibilities to place. The Huskies always have good sprint relays. They will be young this year, but could mature with a season of racing.
“I know Coach Hasso has this track team going in the right direction,” said Schrobilgen. “It would mean so much to do it for him this season.”
“I am going to do everything I can this spring. I just want to score as many points as I can,” added Heinz. “Last year I was just satisfied with the high jump. This year I am looking to bring back more. It is not satisfying to bring something back unless everyone else on the team can share with it.”
It shows the character of this young man. “He is just a great kid. He is really mature for his age,” Dobias-Wagner stated. “He is always asking me questions. There is no hidden agenda with him. There is no wanting to try things outside of what the coaches are telling him.”
At that point, she looked over at the high jump pit. There Heinz was there helping some of his younger teammates with their steps.
She continued: “He wants to know what he should do. He goes out of his way to help everyone else. He helps his teammates tremendously.”
If everything goes to plan this year, Heinz will be in Charleston to defend his state championship. His individual goals are defending his state title while at the same time going after the state record, which is attainable. Then he is off to Duke University to start his next stage of life.
“I want to contribute to the team at Duke, that is one thing,” he said. “But I realize that most college athletes do go on to become professional athletes. The bottom line is getting an education.”
If he does win again in the high jump, it won’t be an individual accomplishment according to his coach.
“This past four years have been great," Heinz said. "We are best friends. So that is something that I value more than anything. She is the reason the last four years I have come to practice. I respect her so much.”
“It is not a teacher-student thing or even a coach-athlete thing,” concluded Dobias-Wagner. “It is more like collaboration. He will be a friend for life. I know he has learned from me. I have definitely learned a lot from him in regards to coaching.”
Four years ago, who would have thought this boy sneaking into the field house to watch practice would be the young man now with a chance to be one of the key ingredients, along with Schrobilgen, to bring a state championship back to Oak Park?