Superman had his cape and Will Claye had his dreadlocks.
The Mountain Pointe product started growing them his junior year of high school, the same year (2008) he went on to win the Arizona state title in the long jump, and he kept them throughout his college and international career.
Until two weeks ago.
Then Claye had a meeting with the electric shears.
“I was in the barber shop for like three hours looking in the mirror,” he told the flowtrack.com website. “I kept saying ‘This isn’t me.’”
The new look didn’t change his status as one of the nation’s top leapers. The 21-year-old pulled off a rare feat last week when he double-qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, in both the long jump and triple jump. He joins Arizona State’s Ryan Whiting (shotput), Kyle Acorn (steeplechase), Desiree Davila (marathon) and Amy Hastings (cross country) among East Valley-tied Olympic track qualifers when the Games begin July 25.
The last U.S. athlete to achieve the double whammy was Walter Davis for the 2000 Games.
Davis didn’t have dreadlocks either, but there is no word on whether or not his mother had any influence on the decision.
“My mom never wanted me to have dreadlocks and there were a few meets where my hair hit the sand and I felt like I was growing up,” Claye said last week while at the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon. “I got a clean cut (look). I miss my locks and maybe down the road I’ll grow them back.”
Claye finished second in both events at the Trials as he reached exactly 27 feet in the long on June 24 to finish behind Marquise Goodwin (27-4). Two weeks ago, Claye jumped 57-7 in the triple jump, only to be bested by former University of Florida teammate Christian Taylor, who landed at 57-10 1/4.
Claye entered the Trials a little bit rusty as he backed off jumping in practice because of minor injuries. He was training, keeping his legs strong, but rarely did he go through the routine of running down the runway and leaving his feet.
“I haven’t been able to practice and jump for about a month in practice,” Claye said. “I jumped at (the Prefontaine Classic on June 1), but other than that I’ve been just training. I’m close to 100 percent right now.”
Claye had plans to attend the 2008 Olympic Trails as a junior at Mountain Pointe but broke his wrist about a month before the event.
So he entered the Trials as a first timer and came away as a double qualifier.
He had plenty of motivation.
Claye graduated Mountain Pointe early to attend Oklahoma before he transferred to Florida, where he was a national champ in the triple and runner-up in the long jump.
He came into the Trials with a hunger after being unsatisfied with his performance at the World Championships last year in the triple jump.
“I feel like I still have a chip on my shoulder from Worlds last year,” he said. “Third place? I don’t like losing. I want to win. If I don’t have a chip on my shoulder I wouldn’t be pushing myself.
“I want a gold medal, an Olympic gold medal. That would be crazy.”