Today, Willie Alexander III is a 51-foot triple jumper locked into Long Beach State on scholarship.
And to think three months ago, The Bee Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year from Central High was so distraught, so inhibited by an ankle injury suffered in soccer -- maybe as far back as football -- he was prepared to give it up.
Then Pops interceded. And he spoke with credibility, as a former horizontal jumping standout himself.
"Willie broke down, cried and didn't think he could jump again," says the father, Willie Alexander Jr., the 1976 Central Section long-jump champion from Roosevelt. "I asked him to trust me, to wait two more weeks to find out."
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Son honored his wish.
Two weeks later, he would sail 48 feet on April 27 at the Reedley Invitational, a then-personal record and section best for the season.
"Such a relief," Dad says, "to his coaches, to me and him; mentally, it was the best thing. Even off to a late start, he knew he could still do it."
Not only compete in the triple jump (he was long jumping all along), but hit, in the words of Dad, "The Big 5."
Meaning, 50 feet -- a magical number for prep triple jumpers.
"I knew he had it in him," the father says.
Fast forward to the CIF State Track and Field Championships on June 2 at Buchanan's Memorial Stadium.
Further, advance to the sixth and final jump of the son's high school career in 100-degree conditions.
His third-round leap of 48-7.25 virtually had reserved a block on the podium to receive a medal (top six).
But this wasn't about settling for that distance, especially after a monster leap never officially recorded on his fourth attempt.
There were flags rimming the triple-jump pit representing national (52-10.5) and CIF state meet (52-5.75) records.
Alexander and many watching were sure he blew past them on jump No. 4.
"It was over 53, I know it was," Dad says.
In agreement was state-meet record-holder Marcus Hooks (1986, Lakewood High), who was present: "You had the national record," he told Alexander III.
But the pit official raised his red flag, signalling foul because Alexander apparently had launched his attempt beyond the 8-inch starting board.
"It had to be like a hair," Dad says, "and that's it. I have no disrespect to the official; he's a professional."
There was then no disputing an Alexander foul on his fifth attempt before he returned atop the runway for attempt No. 6: "I wasn't worried, I wasn't feeling the pressure for my last jump. I had a certain amount of calm and was just trying to live for the moment and appreciate where I was at."
He would fly 51-2.75 -- albeit wind-aided (2.8 meters per second), which, again, prohibited it from making any record books. Had it been legal, it would have ranked No. 6 all-time in the section.
But it did string a third-place medal around his neck.
More important, it instantly stirred an army of college recruiters.
"Overwhelming," Dad says. "Many already knew who he was, but so many came and gave me their (business) cards after that we couldn't even get back to everybody, honestly."
His son chose Long Beach State after also visiting Purdue, Washington State and Sacramento State.
"It was just a gut feeling to go to Long Beach State," said Alexander, who, at 5 feet, 11 inches still hopes to catch his 6-2 father.
"But it was definitely an eye opener, witnessing the rolling hills of Washington and the forests of Indiana. I've had many great experiences, jumping further than I ever have and my family's healthy. I've been blessed."
Athlete of the Year: Willie Alexander III
He's qualified because: A year after leading all boys in points scored (23.5) at the Central Section Masters Championships, he placed first in the section (49-2.75) and third in state in the triple jump (wind-aided 51-2.75); second in the section in the long jump (22-8.5) and anchored the Grizzlies' 400-meter relay to third in the section (42.78). His legal triple jump of 49-2.75 ranked 11th nationally. Also played football and soccer. Next: Long Beach State for track and field.