When junior Rafeala Drake woke up February 11, she knew she was going to jump 38 feet. But she had no idea she’d become the 4A State Champion.
That afternoon, Drake placed first overall in the girls triple jump. Her best jump was a foot farther than any other girl.
Drake started her journey with running in the fourth grade.
“I started doing long distance running, just on the weekends.” she said.
Drake quickly decided long distance was not for her and began to look elsewhere.
Her dad, a former Cuban Olympian, was her biggest motivator for getting into the jumping events.
“I wanted something that required a little bit more technique, and more diverse training,” Drake said.
The majority of her coaching includes speed conditioning, technique work, and lifting in the weight room. Her Riverside jump coach is Maggie Healy, who works alongside Drake’s father.
“I do most of my technique work with my dad,” she said. “A lot of my strength and speed work come from the team. So the culmination of all of that is what got me there.”
The NCHSAA 4A Track and Field State championship, held in Winston Salem, was in the afternoon, as opposed to the usual morning schedule.
“I had a lot more time, so I woke up, ate a good breakfast, meditated and visualized my jump a lot.”
Instead of the nerves athletes normally experience, Drake felt eagerness.
“Honestly I was just really, really excited because I was like, ‘I am jumping 38 [feet] today,’” she said. “I repeated it out-loud quite a bit, so it was just set in my mind.”
Her previous personal best had been 36’ 8”, so this was the first time she had attempted 38 feet.
Drake is usually calm and composed when she competes, which she credits to visualization and breath-work.
“While you’re waiting for your jump] you can either sit on the bench and wait, or you can be moving around, warming up,” she said. “During that time I do a lot of visualizing and breathing, so when I get on the runway it’s just me and my jump.”
Her first jump at the state meet was a foul. However, Drake was not phased.
“I didn’t let it affect me,” she said. “I just knew I needed to at least get one jump to get on the board.”
Her next jump accomplished that, with a new personal best of 37’4.
It also put her in first place heading into the finals.
By the end of her second jump in finals, she had already secured her spot as the state champ. But she wasn’t done. She had one remaining jump left, and was still eager to reach her goal of 38 feet.
“That’s when I moved my mark 4 fingers back,” she said. “My dad gave me my little pep talk, I jumped and it was 38’ 6”. All of my teammates were there, it was so nice.”
Because the triple jump finals were held at the end of the day, the entirety of the Riverside states crew was there to watch her win.
“I could not stop smiling for so long,” Drake adds, laughing. “It was just a really happy moment.”