High School Track & Field

Tompkins freshman Keys continuing family legacy

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 5/4/21

Tompkins freshman jumper/hurdler Jayden Keys grew up in a family of track and field athletes.

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High School Track & Field

Tompkins freshman Keys continuing family legacy

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Tompkins freshman jumper/hurdler Jayden Keys grew up in a family of track and field athletes.

Keys’ dad, Sean, and uncle, Scott, both competed in the sport. His older brother Clayton, a former Falcon standout and now a freshman hurdler at Nebraska, placed third at state in the 300-meter hurdles in 2019 and owns the school record in the long jump at 24-feet, 9-inches. Keys’ older sister, Lanaye, was a district champion in the long jump and a regional qualifier in the 100-meter hurdles this season and will compete in track and field at Houston Baptist University next fall.

“I was born into it,” Keys said. “It’s a mix of pressure and excitement and anxiety. Growing up with it, I’m comfortable with track and field. I’ve always loved running, and in the long jump, you get to fly.”

Keys qualified to the UIL Class 6A state track and field meet this weekend, Saturday, May 8, in Austin after finishing second at the Region III-6A meet two weeks ago in the long jump with a mark of 24-feet, 01.50-inches. His mark is seeded third of the nine jumpers set to compete at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.

Keys actually eclipsed the 25-foot mark on his final try at regional, but it was a scratch because of a minor foul.

“His odds at state are really good,” Tompkins jumps coach Tonya McKelvey-White said. “I want him to just go out there and do what he’s been working on and do what he’s passionate about and what he’s trained for. Go get it.”

Tompkins boys track and field coach Walt Yarrow remembers when he first saw Keys as a Tays Junior High athlete. Middle school meets are often held at Tompkins, so Yarrow had a first-row seat. Yarrow also remembers watching Clayton and Lanaye practice, and Keys working on jumps on his own.

“He’s got that positive edge that serves him well,” Yarrow said. “He’s not intimidated. Super competitive, super focused. He’s very coachable and does it right.”

Keys opened a lot of eyes at the District 19-6A meet in early April, when he was responsible for 30 of the district champion Falcons’ 194 points. Keys won the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and the long jump.

It was at that district meet that Keys set his personal record in the long jump at 24-feet, 4-inches. It’s a mark that ranks fourth in Texas and eighth nationally.

“It’s not common for a freshman in track to be on varsity,” Yarrow said. “Developmentally, it’s not very common. But he is very efficient as a hurdler and we had a spot, so we put him there. We knew he could long jump, but early on it was just hurdles for him the first week or two. Then we got him in long jump, he jumped 24 feet, and he’s been off to the races ever since.”

Keys is an impressive young man. He recently turned 15 years old, but he has a maturity and competitive nature well beyond his years. He makes eye contact and is well-spoken when talking to others. McKelvey-White teaches ninth grade English, and Keys will often chat her up between classes about what she has her students working on.

He is a natural with his repertoire, personality and demeanor. On the track, he is just as unique.

“Jayden is really gifted at understanding his body awareness, like where he’s at on the board, where he’s at on the runway, and he understands how to control his speed,” said McKelvey-White, who has coached collegiate and high school jumpers since 1994. “That’s what sets him apart from a lot of other jumpers, even older jumpers.”

Keys said he will often compare his marks to Clayton’s. He desperately wants his older brother’s school record in the long jump. He has taken hurdling and jumping techniques from Clayton and Lanaye and applied it to his own skillset. Keys has a blend of Clayton’s athletic ability and Lanaye’s speed, but with height and length as well.

He admits that competing against Clayton and Lanaye has been hard. They are NCAA Division I athletes for a reason. But it’s also honed his own competitiveness to where he is fearless on any stage.

“I’m trying to win and be the best all the time,” Keys said. “I don’t really like losing, so I work my butt off to get up to the top.”

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