When he joined the Pasadena High varsity track team last season, Mingo Hosey had never competed in the triple jump.
Hosey started the season as a sprinter and long jumper. It was only by happenstance that he tried the triple jump.
"We were at a dual meet in Long Beach and I had done only three events, and one of my friends said, 'Why don't you try the triple jump,' " Hosey remembered. "On my first jump I think I went 44 feet."
Not bad for a first attempt, but Hosey has gone a lot farther since.
After reaching the CIF Southern Section finals with a leap of 47-3 as a junior, Hosey has displayed a marked improvement this season. He has a best of 49-10, the top mark in the Southern Section.
That places him No. 2 in the state behind Tyrone Scott of Citrus Heights (50-2 1/2) and No. 6 in the nation heading into the CIF state meet Friday and Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
The 18-year-old senior is hoping his high school athletic career ends a lot better than it started.
Baseball had been Hosey's favorite sport and he has an older brother, Dwayne, who is an outfielder in the Chicago White Sox's AA Midwest League team in South Bend, Ind.
But Mingo's hopes ended when he didn't make the team as a ninth-grader.
So, at the urging of friends, Hosey switched to track.
After showing progress as a junior, Hosey had an inkling that he would improve in track this season when he started for the football team as a defensive back. "I knew I was going to do well in the triple jump back in football season," Hosey said. "Mr. Large (track Coach Art Large) told me it would help make my legs stronger."
Leg strength is especially important to Hosey considering his slender, 5-10, 155-pound build. Hosey said he worked out with weights to improve his leg strength during the season.
"I think football gave Mingo a lot of confidence," Large said.
Even so, Hosey admits his success this season "has been a big surprise to me. Even at the beginning of this year, I started out jumping around 46 and then at the Pasadena Games I just started to fly."
It was at the Pasadena Games, early in the season in March, that Hosey produced his 49-10 in the triple jump, the state's best until Citrus Heights' Scott surpassed it last week.
"Mingo's success is a little surprising, but maybe it shouldn't be because he's a good athlete, works hard and is progressing," Large said.
Hosey was excited about his leap at the Pasadena Games but has mixed feelings about it because he has had difficulty matching the effort.
"I've been striving to get another 49 or 50 jump and it's been hard," he said. "I let my technique slack off, so lately I've been going back to the old technique."
Added Large: "Now we do a little more technique work and that will keep him more consistently in the 50-foot range."
And Hosey's previous form appears to be returning. He turned in a 49-3 1/2 to win at the Southern Section 4-A Division finals two weeks ago and went 49-3 at the CIF Masters Meet last week to win by nearly two feet.
Hosey went even farther on an earlier jump last week, 50-8, but it was ruled a foul because of a slight crow hop.
But Hosey knows what he has to work on to surpass the 50-foot plateau and win at the state meet.
"I have a good chance if I'm consistent with my jumps," he said. "When I get consistently in the 49s, I know I can get a 50."
Large would not be surprised.
"I think he's just scratching the surface of his ability," Large said. "When he reaches his potential, I think he can go 53 or 54.
"He's a little thin, but he's got a muscular build. I think he can gain another 5 or 10 pounds and I think that might help him gain another three or four feet."
The coach said he knows Hosey can improve because he can be a hard worker.
"You have to push him a little more than some people because he is such a soft-spoken kid," Large said. "He isn't the kind to bust his bones on his own, but if I'm there he'll bust his bones for me. He's not the kind of kid who likes to work alone. He likes that close, personal attention."
In addition to doing a series of bounding, reaching and jumping drills in his everyday workouts, Hosey uses sprinting as a key element of his training method. For the team's sake, sprinting has been a necessity.
"He's probably the second fastest kid in the Pacific league and he was our fastest, so he ran the 100 and the 400-meter relay for us," Large said. "He's gone 10.8 in the 100 and has long-jumped over 22 feet."
Large said Hosey's high school career is similar to that of former Pasadena standout Joe Richardson, who won the state title in the long and triple jumps in 1984.
"He has come on about like Richardson did," Large said. "I didn't take him into triple jumping until his sophomore year. Mingo didn't start until his junior year, but he is starting to blossom."
Perhaps because of his late development as a triple jumper, Hosey has not been recruited heavily by NCAA Division I colleges.
That's partly why Hosey says he expects to go to a junior college, probably Pasadena City College, next season. "I didn't know I was going to do so well (as a triple jumper) so I didn't take the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)," he said.
However, Large said he was approached recently by several top Division I programs and attending a four-year college in the fall is not out of the question.
"I think most of the coaches are waiting until after the season," Large said. "After next week they'll start to come in."