Pat McGee was so proud she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The Hall of Fame boys track coach had just watched one of her captains, senior John “Jake” Connors, break the school’s 34-year-old high jump record by soaring over the bar at a height of 6 feet, 6 inches.
Connors had surpassed the Winthrop High record of McGee’s son, Kevin, who had jumped 6-5 in the Andover Invitational Track Meet in the 1976 season.
“I had a few mixed emotions,” McGee said with candor. “It was exciting to have some one break that record and I was so happy for Jake because he’s worked so hard. And it brought back some great memories of my son Kevin’s career.”
Connors broke the record on his last jump of the day last Wednesday at Beverly High School. He had cleared the bar with room at spare at heights of 5-6, 5-8, 5-10, 6-0, 6-2, and 6-4.
Then came the moment that Pat McGee or Jake Connors or any of his teammates who witnessed it will ever forget. He had the record that was his goal at the start of the 2010 spring season.
“My first jump at 6-6, I knew I was going to break the record because I was flying over the bar when I was warming up before the event,” said Connors. “I was nice and smooth and I knew something good was going to happen.”
Connors, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 175 pounds, has become one of the top high jumpers in the state despite taking up the endeavor only one year ago.
“Coach McGee really helped me a lot,” said Connors. “She had me doing all the right workouts in order to improve my technique. And [Peabody high jump coach] Joe Patrone helped me out last summer. He changed my form to do the “J” [style] and it improved my jumps.”
Connors played baseball for two seasons and has been a key member of the varsity basketball team that advanced to the North sectional finals this winter. His extraordinary leaping ability and athleticism on the basketball court caught the eye of Dr. Paul McGee, coach McGee’s son.
“My son, Paul, said, ‘mom, you have to see how high he [Connors] jumps,’” said McGee. “Then the following season, I was taking attendance and I said, Jake, ‘what are you doing here?’’ “And he said, ‘I wanted to try track.’’’
And the rest is Winthrop High School high jumping history.
The son of Tim and Arlene Connors, Jake has two brothers, Josh and Tim, who played baseball at Catholic Memorial High School. He also has a sister, Katherine.
Jake Connors isn’t through soaring over the high jump bar and racking up titles. He’ll be the man to beat in the upcoming Northeastern Conference Meet and the State Class D Meet in pursuit of a state championship. In the fall, he will compete in track and field at UMass/Lowell.
“I’m predicting a great career at UMass/Lowell,” said McGee. “I think we’re looking at a future college All-American.”