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Leaping forward: Altoona’s Beck expanding his skill set

Courtesy photo Senior Ryan Beck was one of Altoona’s top returning jumpers.

Senior salute

The Mirror is recognizing some high school senior spring sports athletes who missed out on their final scholastic seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan Beck’s love for track and field grew each year through junior high and high school.

It grew so much, he started adding events to his repertoire before his senior season. And now that his scholastic career finished prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s ready to add a bunch of new events for college.

Beck, an Altoona Area High School senior who stood out as a jumper for the Mountain Lions the last three seasons, is hoping to become a decathlete in college. That would involve 10 different events.

“I’ve been thinking about becoming a decathlete since the beginning of my junior year,” Beck said. “I like how it shows the ultimate athlete, how hard it is. It takes a lot of physical and mental strength. Not many people can do it, but I love seeing the amount of pure skill and talent it takes.”

Beck began jumping for the track team in seventh grade after getting introduced to the sport while watching his older brother, Nate — a standout football player at Altoona High — compete in junior high. Ryan said he gravitated to the jumps immediately and was hooked on the sport.

Gradually, Beck began to improve through junior high and started to see better results, especially in the triple jump, in 10th grade.

“It took a lot of work on my own,” Beck said. “I’d stay after practices and meets and do what I’d have to do — a lot of lifting, research on my own with drills and watching videos. I really wanted to perfect my form.”

Beck missed the beginning of his junior outdoor track season due to a torn ligament in his right foot but bounced back pretty quickly. He was able to set personal bests in the triple jump (43 feet) and long jump (20 feet) and ended up sixth in a loaded triple jump field in the 2019 District 6 Class 3A Championships.

Beck continued to work in the offseason, placing fifth the triple jump in a meet at Widener University last summer and finished fourth at an indoor meet this past February at Youngstown State University.

“I thought Ryan would have been one of the favorites to win the triple jump at districts this year,” Altoona boys track coach Mike Adams said. “Being a senior, he had the most experience among our jumpers, and he’s a dedicated kid who works hard at the triple jump.”

Beck began experimenting with running the hurdles in the winter season, and that experience could be beneficial to him if he competes in the decathlon in college. Decathlon events are the long jump, high jump, 110-meter hurdles, shot put, discus, javelin, pole vault, 100 dash, 400 dash and 1500 run.

He said he is currently deciding between Bloomsburg University and California, Pa. and is planning on studying physical therapy or pre-med.

“When I first heard about (his senior track season getting canceled), my heart was broken,” Beck said. “But then it really motivated me. I’ve been working non-stop because I have a lot more to prove. I feel like I’m not done with this sport — I have a lot more fuel in the tank.”

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