HELENA — Josh Malone knows he can jump.
He did so successfully at Missoula Big Sky High. Whether it was on the gridiron, on the hardwood or on the track, Malone leapt.
As he built strength in his jumping during track season — triple, long and high — he also picked up hurdling. At the Top 10 Meet his senior year, Carroll College track coach Harry Clark took notice.
“He made the mistake of me seeing him run hurdles,” Clark said.
Clark knew he wanted Malone to come to Carroll. Once Malone signed on, his transition into a heptathlete began.
Clark saw what Malone’s high school coach Dan Nile envisioned: a multi-event track athlete. Malone knew leaping for a college team could be a possibility and Nile’s insistence that Malone would be a heptathlete became a reality as soon as he started working with Clark at Carroll College.
“It’s definitely been eye opening,” Malone said. “It’s been a lot of hard work, which is good. Definitely once we got into the season there’s that payoff for it which is awesome.”
Malone arrived as an all-state performer in both long and high jump. Clark couldn’t wait to begin teaching Malone and others the intricacies of more events.
“They’re all learning,” Clark said. “They really like it.”
Clark said the learning process involves two-three practices a day, rotating between event practices and honing technique. Clark prefers Malone and other underclassman multi-eventers to come in cold.
Many ask if they should begin practicing pole vault or another event prior to arriving at Carroll. Clark insists they do not.
“I’ll teach you right from the get go,” Clark said. “They’re such positive kids. They want to do too much stuff.”
That eager mentality has allowed Malone to qualify for the indoor national meet in the high jump and in the heptathlon. Malone hit the mark for the high jump in the Saints’ first meet in December.
The Saints were happy to get a meet in before winter break, and Malone made the most of it.
In his first meet as a college athlete, the leaper hit the NAIA B-standard, clearing 6-6.25. About a month later on Jan.12 at a meet in Bozeman, Malone sprained his knee on his final leap in the triple jump, landing sideways on his leg. The injury kept him out of practice for three weeks.
In his first meet back and with limited practice time — bulky knee and all — Malone qualified for the heptathlon, hitting the NAIA B-standard with 4,394 points at the Mountain State Games in Pocatello, Idaho on Feb. 2.
It was a far from perfect performance, but an encouraging one as Malone makes his way back from the injury. Clark said the 1,000-meter race in particular showed Malone’s rust.
“He ran a really slow 1,000,” Clark said. “I felt bad for him for that.”
Malone, who’s majoring in health science, appreciates the support of the coaches in his first track season. While he adjusts to the variety of workouts — cross training, biking, elliptical — he knows the coaching staff has his best interests in mind.
“They are excited for all of our athletes, which is pretty big,” Malone said. “They’re always your biggest fan, which is pretty cool.”
As the Saints prepare for their last chance qualifier this weekend in Bozeman, Malone will rest his knee up. Carroll is taking nearly a full team to Brick Breeden and hoping to add on to their 17 qualifiers.
The freshman from Missoula already punched his ticket to nationals.