Area GLIAC jumpers excel

Editor’s note: This is a weekly series published each Monday profiling local athletes now participating on the collegiate level.

Kayla Ellks knows she’s got one last chance at nationals.

The former Lordstown High School athlete and Tiffin University senior jumper had triple jump glory within her grasp.

Her jump of 38 feet, 11.75 inches at the late February Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Meet was a NCAA Division II provisional mark, but not an automatic qualifier for this year’s indoor national championships.

Her GLIAC winning mark was the second best in school history – short of Marielle Segbor’s mark of 39-10 set last season.

Ellks also placed second in the long jump at 18-6.

In college, it’s about distance – not place.

Ellks’ GLIAC jump was a couple inches short of Seton Hill’s Calsie Hill, who got the last triple jump spot at the Division II indoor nationals.

Last outdoor season, Ellks missed the long jump for nationals by a quarter inch – motivation for her final season as a Dragon.

“I think it pushes me even more to make it this time because it is my senior year and my last outdoor season,” Ellks said.

She’s not the only Dragons’ triple jumper. Cardinal Mooney graduate Chyna Davis placed fourth in the GLIAC (37-3.25).

“We work on it three times a week, work on triple jump,” Ellks said. “She has come a long way. We watch each other and help each other at meets, making sure everyone is improving. She has the skills to be an amazing jumper.”

Ashland University sophomore and Newton Falls High School graduate Jen Bjelac is a good long jumper in her own right.

She placed third in the GLIAC with 18-0.25.

Bjelac is hoping to improve for the outdoor season.

“I’m really hoping to hit the mark and maybe get myself high on the list for nationals,” she said.

Bjelac, who won a Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II girls long jump state championship in 2011, said she’s finally coming into her own at the collegiate level. She jumped 18-2.5 to win the D-II title in 2011.

“My technique got changed my freshman year,” she said. “I’m getting back to being in the process of where I was when I was a senior in high school. I’ve got the new technique now and it’s working really good. I’ve had some promising meets. I’m continue to learn, but I’m getting the hang of it.”

Bjelac is in multiple events – including the pentathlon, where she took third in the GLIAC. The pentathlon includes 800-meter run, 60 hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot put.

That said, she knows her long jump still needs to improve.

“I was hoping to progress, getting into higher 18s and maybe push into 19s,” Bjelac said. “I almost got a reality check, I guess you could say. Doing the multi events, the pentathlon and the heptathalon, our time is really spread over all the events. There’s no time to just focus on one.

“I just don’t focus on one event pretty much. I have a little bit of everything every day. It’s a slow work in progress. I’m trying to get the hang of things. Last year was a real eye opener of how different it was to compete in all of those events and learn new events. I’m hoping to make bigger jumps now that I’m more expereinced.”

Lake Erie College sophomore Destiny Prusky jumped 5-5.25 to place third at the GLIAC. She didn’t even place last indoor season.

“The GLIAC is one of the hardest conference in D-II. I’m pretty proud of myself for doing that,” Prusky said.

Meanwhile, she’s seen many familiar faces while competing for Lake Erie College.

“It’s cool seing a lot of people I ran with in high school and in the GLIAC as well,” Prusky said. “I see a lot of people in our meets and we go head-to-head with them a lot.”

Also, Ellks is off to a good start this outdoor season. She jumped a 19-0.25 in her first outdoor meet at Alabama. He best outdoor jump was 19-3, set near the end of last season.

“I just hope to build upon that,” Ellks said.

So far, it’s a been a great career for Ellks.

“It’s something I’ll never regret,” she said. “It’s worth everything I’ve been through. It’s bittersweet that I’m almost done, but it’s been a great experience.”