Thane Pierson and WSU track & field ready for Tucson

Adam Loewy | Evergreen track & field reporter

The Cougars will travel south to warmer weather in Tucson, Ariz., this weekend to contend in the University of Arizona’s Jim Click Shootout, while 16 other WSU athletes will stick closer to home and compete in Spokane. 

WSU sophomore high jumper Thane Pierson is looking to keep his momentum rolling into Tucson after a win at Stanford last weekend. 

Pierson is consistently making tweaks to his craft as he strives to reach the 7-foot high jump bar. Pierson said with higher bars, extending your body and utilizing patience are key traits when working on extension over the top of the bar. But, in high jumping it’s as much mental as it is physical. 

“My first time looking at (the) 7-foot (bar), it was really mental,” Pierson said. “The first time I went to do it, my leg just kind of collapsed. I was jumping too hard, but you really don’t need to change that much.”   

One of the first coaches who recognized Pierson’s high jumping potential was WSU track and field Assistant Coach for jumping events and pole vault, Matthew McGee. McGee said Pierson struggled in his mechanics as a freshman, but he is showing rapid improvement.  

“The somewhat difficult part has been trying not to disrupt his natural rhythm and balance too much, while teaching (Pierson) actions and motions that are more efficient and as a result produce higher heights without more effort,” McGee said. 

The high jump was a natural progression for the 6-foot-5 sophomore from the small-town of Naches, Wash., near Yakima. But Pierson did not start like most track and field stars. He was initially drawn to basketball and motocross dirt biking. Pierson concentrated his efforts on basketball becoming a dominant forward at Naches Valley High School. 

Although he never raced competitively, Pierson received his first dirt bike in middle school and became instantly hooked.

“I had a lot of places to ride outside of my town,” he said. “There’s a lot of sagebrush out there, but there’s a lot of good trails around Mt. Cleman.” 

Off the trails, Pierson is an avid musician, constantly creating beauty on his piano. He said he’s never taken any lessons. Instead, he simply teaches himself how to play songs using various YouTube clips. 

“It’s just a nice stress reliever playing music (and) something that’s nice to do at the end of the day,” Pierson said. “You come home and sit down, and you look over and see whatever instrument and it takes the edge off of play.”

After his junior year of high school basketball, the Naches Valley High School track and field coach, Lonnie Blanchard, approached Pierson to compete in the high jump. Because Pierson no longer played baseball in the spring, track and field provided a unique opportunity to test his height in the high jump. 

“My head coach (Blanchard) really helped me a lot because I was knew to the sport,” he said. “My basketball coach also knew some about track and high jumping so he would come out to practices and help.” 

 Pierson never even completed his first full track and field event before problems occurred. 

“My first track meet I had to dropout,” Pierson said. “I cleared one bar, and then I dropped out.” 

Doctors said his spine had not matured yet, resulting an inflammation and painful soreness in his lower back. 

Battling the back pain throughout his senior season, Pierson persevered and placed second at the state championships in the high jump. In fact, Pierson knew there was still a possibility that he could compete in the high jump at the collegiate level.  

However, because of his late start Pierson faced another challenge. He had to recruit on behalf of himself. 

“(It was) definitely harder than being recruited, but I just sent emails to coaches around the state at different schools,” he said. “I sent them videos and came up for a visit, and I finally decided to come (to WSU). 

Pierson has also developed a tight bond with McGee as he continues to reach soaring heights. 

“His consistent determination in training though is what has allowed him to absorb some of these new ideas quickly and his progress this season is the result,” McGee said. 

Pierson said he feels lucky to be a part of this track team and never thought he’d be in this position today.