Chyna Ries aiming for more improvement

Chyna Ries CO sped through her 60 prelim and safely qualified for the finals, but she is also eyeing a big mark in the long jump. John Dye/ESPNHS

Could one "earth-shattering" moment in Pocatello inspire another?

On Saturday, we find out.

That's when Colorado prep national sophomore class record holder Chyna Ries goes after truly insane long jump real estate: The almost unfathomable 22-foot barrier.

As utterly crazy as that sounds, Ries already defied nearly all odds last weekend when she improved on her lifetime-best performance by more than a full foot, smashing the national 10th grade record by five-plus inches in the process.

In spanning 20 feet, 5.75 inches at last weekend's Colorado Indoor Championships, the George Washington HS star not only launched herself into the "by-grade" record books, she also catapulted herself into the 2012 national lead and a tie for ninth place on the all-time high school indoor lists.

On Saturday, Ries looms as the heavy favorite to capture the long jump crown at the 34th annual Simplot Games at Idaho State University's Holt Arena. It's the first event on a busy final day of finals action, taking place on a runway situated on the exterior of the 200-meter wooden track oval, scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

She'll also battle in the 60-meter dash finals (12:15 p.m.), where Washington sophomore star Hannah Cunliffe signaled her return to excellence in rolling to the top qualifying time (7.60) in Friday's prelims, just 0.05 seconds faster than No. 2 qualifier Ries.

While others might try to seek out chinks in Ries' armor as a budding phenom, she and her coaches were busy checking out cracks along the earth's surface inside the arena.

"While I was warming up, my coaches were looking around the long jump pit and one of them noticed a big crack in the cement next to the pit," she relayed. "They measured it and it was 22 feet even. The want me to work off of that mark when I jump."

With master technicians Chuck Dugue´ and Tony Wells guiding her progress ever since her days of bantam competition in youth track and field meets, Ries (her last name rhyming with fleece and her first name pronounced the same as the country) appears confident, fit, focused, and knowledgeable as she bounds and charges into the future.

Ries credits Dugue´ with her technical proficiency in the events and points to Wells as refining her natural speed. It's a great situation, with teammate and hurdler extraordinaire Dior Hall also benefiting from such tutelage at the Denver-based school.

Ries has already improved two feet in the last 12 months and she's ruling nothing out, confirming she was confident that eclipsing the 20-foot barrier was only a matter of time -- and distance.

"My speed has really been coming along," said the talented 15-year-old.

She has improved nearly a quarter of a second across 60 meters in the last two years and holds bests of a wind-aided 11.66 and a wind legal 11.77 outdoors for 100 meters as a frosh. She rattled those marks (and the wind situation) off the top of her head without hesitation, lending further insight into both her awareness and appreciation of the sport's finer detail points.

"I'm getting most of the board (at takeoff in the long jump)," she added. "I was consistently getting good results (in workouts). My big challenge right now is over-rotating (the hips in the air, which creates a loss of momentum and prematurely initiates the landing phase). I've got to try to look up ahead of me, not to over rotate my hips and instead stay straight up."

If she learns to manage that successfully, Ries has two-plus years of high school remaining to go after Carol Lewis' indoor national high school record of 21-07.50 set in 1981. She'll be going after that mark starting with Saturday, but admits that securing the Simplot Games meet record will be enough of a challenge.

Brittany Daniels (Merrill West HS, Tracy, Calif.) spanned 20-05.00 to win the event in 2005. Daniels also owns the national outdoor record (44-11.75) in the triple jump.