Jumping into stardom: Ajack Waikur wins Telegraph Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year

Ajack Waikur of Lexington competes in the Class B high jump finals at Burke Stadium in Omaha on May 17.

Ajack Waikur’s leap into stardom at the Nebraska State High School Track and Field Championships in Omaha this season didn’t happen overnight.

The seed sprouted in 2017 when Waikur searched for a niche within Lexington athletics that could earn him acceptance among his talented group of friends.

“In my sophomore year I noticed all my friends were good at something,” he remembers. “I looked up to them for that, so I thought I could be like them and be good at something. Track was that thing for me, so that’s where it all started.”

And since then it’s catapulted him into the state’s best jumper, the centerpiece for Lexington’s first boys state championship since 1988 and this year’s Telegraph Track Athlete of the Year.

Waikur’s dominance at Burke Stadium this season ended with two all-class gold medals in the triple jump and high jump, while adding another gold for the Class B 300-meter intermediate hurdles and a silver medal in the Class B long jump.

But this was something Lexington’s jumps coach Jeffery Neujahr anticipated following the star athlete’s performance a year ago.

“This year he was motivated more than years past,” Neujahr said. “Getting second in the triple jump last year put a bad taste in his mouth, and he really wanted to come out and prove he was the best this year.”

The hurt set Waikur on a narrow path, shutting off all distraction to focus solely on accomplishing his goal.

“He really figured out the time and effort needed to go out and perform the way he was capable of week-in and week-out,” Neujahr said. “In years past he just expected to go out and win because of talent. This year especially he not only believed in himself but put in that time and effort during the week to make that happen.”

And the difference oozed with his every performance.

Waikur opened this season by shattering Lexington’s 31-year-old triple jump record, and he later extended it from a 48-foot jump at the Holdrege Invitational to a 48-2 and 3/4 at state.

The triple jump record — which came directly after Waikur ran and won another gold in the Class B 300-meter intermediate hurdles — had won him three of his four events to make him the catalyst in Lexington’s run on championship Saturday.

As the medals accumulated, the more Lexington’s senior star helped his team inch closer to the Class B state title. But as it came down to the final event of the day between the Minutemen and McCook, Waikur had to cheer from the sidelines as Lexington’s 4x400 relay team solidified the title.

And that was also OK for Waikur.

“It really meant a lot for all of us,” Waikur said. “We changed the athletic culture and helped the younger kids to see what it takes and what winning feels like.”

Looking back on the historic season, Waikur added that winning the gold medals wasn’t the only legacy he wanted to leave behind for the up and coming athletes in Lexington.

“I don’t just want to be remembered as the guy who won all those gold medals, but as part of all the friendships we built together,” he said. “Even though we were working really hard, we all had fun doing it. There are days you kind of hate track, but if you can brighten the mood then that’s always going to be something people remember you for.”

And Neujahr, too, can attest to Waikur’s infectuous personality in making gloomy days brighter.

“I was so proud of what he accomplished this year,” Neujahr said. “But he’s just the type of kid you can be happy for no matter how he competes.”

Waikur’s next adventure will take him to Doane University, where he will compete as a track star for the Tigers.

“I felt Doane could be a place where I could make my skills better and focus,” he said. “It’s a small place where I can focus on myself and make myself better without any distractions.”

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