Denfeld News

April 24, 2009
Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld jumper looks to make a leap to state
By Rick Weegman

Billy Phousongphouang’s original plans were to visit his parents in Japan as soon as school ended the first week of June.

But the Duluth Denfeld junior’s progress in his specialty, the triple jump, caused a change in travel plans. With the Minnesota high school state track and field meet scheduled the same weekend, Phousong-phouang will head to the Far East later in the summer.

That’s probably a good idea since Phousongphouang (pronounced POO-SONG-POO-ANG) has a good chance of qualifying after barely missing out last year. Just a few years ago, the 17-year-old had scoffed at the notion of running on an oval track or jumping into a sand pit.

“I thought track was a joke before I actually tried it,” he said. “Now I love it.”

The affable 5-foot-10 Phousongphouang had never participated in the sport before his sophomore year at Denfeld. Perhaps that was because of his constant traveling. The Des Moines, Iowa, native lived in Hawaii and Seattle before settling for six years in Sasebo, Japan, where his father was stationed at a U.S. military base.

He and his 12-year-old sister, Nickie, came to Duluth in the summer of 2006 to live with their aunt, Annie Montgomery.

Phousongphouang, who counts Laotian, Vietnamese and Spanish among his many heritages, first turned to soccer and baseball. He made the Denfeld baseball junior varsity team as a freshman, but his interest for that sport soon waned.

“I realized that I wanted to try something else. I don’t know how to golf, so track was the only [spring sport] left,” he said. “It turned out to be something I liked doing.”

Phousongphouang placed fifth in the triple jump at the 2008 Section 7AA meet, posting a personal-best of 41 feet, 4 inches — nearly 6 feet farther than his initial leaps. He’s already come close to that this year in an indoor meet and is about 18 inches from breaking the school record despite generating the bulk of his knowledge from watching jumpers on youtube.com.

“I don’t have the technique down yet for triple, but once I get that down and train to do it, I think I’ll probably max [around 44 or 45 feet],” he said. “I’m going to push myself to do that.”

Hunters coach Frank Huie also has Phousongphouang entered in the long jump — where he had a personal-best 19-10 earlier this season — the 200 meters and the 400 relay. He’s even had him tinker with the high jump.

“He’s one of those good problems,” said Huie, who compared the teenager to a kid in a candy store for his penchant of trying a little of everything. He’s confident that Phousongphouang hasn’t come close to reaching his potential. “If we get nice weather and let him get warmed up, the sky’s the limit.”

That’s why Phousongphouang altered his summer travel itinerary. It just may include a trip to Hamline University in St. Paul, site of the state meet.

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