CHESHIRE -- It didn't take long for Dante Sandifer to catch the attention of the Hoosac Valley track and field coaches.
The sophomore recorded a jump of 19 feet, 2 inches in the long jump in his first meet with the team. A leap of 18-10 is needed to qualify for the Western Massachusetts meet in the event.
"The first time I ever measured a jump by him it was 19-2, which is pretty darn good for a 10th-grader," said assistant coach Tom Corrigan who spends time working with the jumpers. "That's some writing on the wall right there."
Sandifer joined the team this spring in an effort to get in better shape. He was also convinced by several friends that are on the team.
His first official leap has held up as the third longest in Berkshire County so far. It's two and a half feet shy of the school's record, putting the mark within reach.
"My 19-2 jump surprised me," he said. "I wanted to do something like that, but didn't think it would be so soon."
He hasn't hit that mark since, but has stayed ahead of most of his competition.
He's finished first in all but one meet so far this season. His lone second-place finish came at the Berkshire Invitational.
"I always try to make myself touch the rim in the gym, and I keep getting closer, so I thought I'd be good at jumps," Sandifer said. "I started off the mat, jumping in the high. I started jumping distance good, so I moved to that. It's been my favorite, I love it."
He also participates in the triple jump, where his best leap was 37-10. Teammate Zach O'Neill has been ahead of him in that event and the duo have been neck in neck in both events all season. Boys' coach Ron Namislo says that's what he likes to see and that the daily competition has helped push Sandifer this season.
He also joined the 4x100 relay team after having the team's third best 100-meter dash time at the April 30 meet. Sandifer finished a tenth of a second behind Ian Hill and a second behind Tyler Mach in the 100 before joining them and O'Neill on the relay team against Lenox.
It's been a two-way street for the Hurricane. Not only has he enjoyed his time on the track, but it seems as though track is giving back to him.
"Track has found him and he's found track," Namislo said. "I think it's really worked together. I see a different attitude in school. He's paying a little more attention to grades, a little more attention to behaving. Teachers have come back to me and said that track has really made a difference for him."
It took a little time for a complete transformation. Namislo noticed he was missing practices early in the season. After some success -- and a coaching chat -- that quickly came to an end.
"He started jumping well and I think that came around and now he doesn't miss [practice] ever," Namislo said. "He's here early and he goes home late. He just dedicated himself."
Combined with his natural athletic ability, that dedication and willingness to accept coaching could push him over the top.
Running the 100 and the relay will only help his jumping abilities as he builds up his speed on the approach.
"And he listens. That's huge," Corrigan said. "If he's off on his steps and you adjust him a little bit, he listens and he tries to apply it. That is huge."
Jeremy Pierce's Hoosac Valley record of 21-7 may be in reach, but Sandifer isn't looking to bag that this season. He's keeping his goals realistic.
He's been working with Pierce on different techniques to try and help himself improve.
"I want to hit at least 20 this year," he said. "He tells me to do certain kinds of jumps every day and certain things to make my legs stronger. I've got time, I just need to keep training."