TURNER – There aren’t a lot of high-level high jumpers who run cross country.
But Kalulu Ngaida isn’t like a lot of athletes.
The Cascade High School sophomore helped her team qualify for Saturday’s OSAA Class 4A state cross country meet at Lane Community College by placing 10th in last week’s Oregon West Conference meet in a personal record time of 21:47.
Ngaida placed second at the 4A state track and field meet in the high jump as a freshman to arrive in the state’s track and field consciousness, and she found cross country to stay in shape and away from injury.
It’s a rare athlete who can do such drastically different disciplines well.
“A lot of the elite athletes, if they were elite high jumpers through high school, they had to find a fall sport to stay active,” she said.
To support her ambition in the high jump – as well as the triple jump – she sought elite-level training.
She travels to Houston once every three weeks to train with Hugo Munoz, a former Olympic high jumper.
To pay for that she got a job: she’s a model.
“I know she models for Fred Meyer,” said Cascade junior Lizzie Mack, who placed sixth at the district meet. “She’s doing Fashion Week. I know she modeled for a suntan lotion thing. I know she does a lot of different things.”
She went to an open call a year ago and was picked up by an agency.
She has been the youngest adult model at Portland Fashion Week the past two years.
“Anybody can show up to the open call, you show up to the open call and give them your information,” Ngaida said. “If they like you they can book you and hook you up with jobs.”
As an athlete who stands at 5-foot-6, Ngaida probably done growing up, which means her future in track and field may be in the triple jump, an event in which she placed 10th in the state as a freshman.
In cross country, she’s making big strides.
Ngaida’s time of 21:47 at the district meet was a personal record of more than a minute from a year ago and puts her way ahead of where she was at this point last year when she placed 80th at the 4A state meet.
“Me and her like kind of compete with each other running, like friendly competing with each other, so we go back and forth,” said junior teammate Celina Ciampi-Hicks, who placed ninth at the district meet in 21:37. “Just this last one I was like, yeah because I’ve gotten ahead.
“It’s so really nice when you have someone who runs close to you, and also when you’re on the same team because you know you’re getting the scores for that. It’s competition within yourself every day and on competition days.”
By Cascade’s girls team qualifying for the state meet as a team this season, it extends the team’s streak of qualifying for state to eight years in a row, and the Cougars are going as a team for the 14th time in 16 years.
“The ultimate thing, and why these guys are good, and why any girls team is good and girls teams are cohesive like that very often is that there comes a point in this race where it hurts too much to do it for yourself,” said Cascade co-head coach Michael T. Smith.
“As a coach you look at yourself as somebody who is trying to put together a team because we’re not going to put out any Olympians here, but the experience of being on a really good team, there’s nothing that can replace it.”
Ngaida was the beneficiary of the teamwork last year when she got to race in the state meet as a freshman. She’s glad she has been able to keep that going and pass that on.
“It’s really honorable to be on a team and represent them and keep the tradition going,” she said. “Really in a sense it’s a tradition to have the girls’ varsity go to state. It’s a tradition having everybody go to state every year, even freshman.”
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