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Girls Track and Field: Downers Grove North’s McKenna Cinotte makes the most of last year, poised for a big spring

McKenna Cinotte turned the loss of one year of competitive track and field into an opportunity to grow.

She is ready to realize the fruits of her work.

Cinotte, a Downers Grove North senior and Ball State recruit, missed out on her junior season when the coronavirus pandemic canceled 2020 Illinois spring sports. That came a year after Cinotte, a former gymnast, took sixth in the 2019 Class 3A state triple jump.

A year later, Cinotte is back and better than ever. She has the state’s second-best marks in both the triple jump and long jump, with big aspirations for the state meet scheduled for June 10-12 in Charleston.

“I feel the most ready that I ever have,” Cinotte said. “It’s definitely been a weird year, kind of an unexpected season, didn’t know what would happen. That is what keeps me going. No matter what happens, the work I put in will pay off in the end.”

Cinotte went 38 feet, 4 inches in the triple jump in one of the few indoor meets last spring. After sports were shut down she did her own sprint training, and sent videos to Downers Grove North coach Matthew Maletich to ask if there was any tweaks needed. She found some meets to compete at during the summer, and at the Chicago Jumps and Sprints Fest at St. Rita in July soared to a career-best 40 feet, quarter of an inch.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Cinotte said. “It didn’t kick in until two hours later.”

With Maletich unable to legally train Cinotte during shutdown, he found other avenues. In a Hail Mary he Googled and found Proviso West jumps coach Andy Pavlou, who also trained former Downers Grove South star Tori Franklin, and agreed to work with Cinotte. Cinotte also got connected with Troy Doris, a Bolingbrook graduate who took seventh in the triple jump at the 2016 Olympics, and Shardia Lawrence, a former NCAA triple jump champion at Kansas State.

In the fall they trained for six days a week at Downers Grove South, primarily working on running and technical aspects. When the weather got colder, with nowhere to go, Cinotte and her training partners found the Gately Indoor Track and Field complex in Chicago where they trained every day through January and February.

“A lot of little things that I learned lined up with high school coaches with a little more details,” she said. “I learned about the importance of bounding, we worked a lot on focusing a lot on holding the leg down to get max force going into the third phase. I always had a rough third phase; there were days I was long jumping off of the right leg to enforce that third phase. I focused a lot on running technique going into the jump learning how to gauge that speed, gradually getting faster as I get closer to the board.”

Cinotte at a meet last week jumped 39 feet, 7.5 inches in the triple jump and long jumped 19 feet, 1.5 inches.

“The biggest thing with her is she is stronger and she is faster,” Maletich said. “She is running sprint times that she never ran before. You can she she attacks the triple jump. She could jump 38 feet with her eyes closed. She has learned to attack different parts of her jump.”

Cinotte comes from a family of athletes. Her dad was a football and basketball player at Hall High School in Spring Valley in western Illinois, her mom a softball player there. An older brother played football, basketball and soccer in high school, while McKenna’s kid sister does gymnastics.

Cinotte herself did gymnastics her whole life, quit in sixth grade after a wrist injury and wanted to get back into a sport her freshman year when Maletich aggressively recruited her for track. She turned down his first try at gymnastics practice. He asked again in the hallway, then pulled her out of biology class to make a third pitch. Cinotte’s friends and parents convinced her to try it.

“I always tell people I recruit gymnasts as much as I can because they’re fearless,” Maletich said. “She will tell you that I was relentless and she’s glad that I was. She has that gymnastics background which is great. You need people who will take chances with the triple jump.”

Maletich describes Cinotte as a girl who enjoys working hard and enjoys competing, and who he thinks is bored when she’s not training. Cinotte even got in some work last summer with Neuqua Valley’s Riley Ammenhauser, two-time defending state triple jump and a friendly rival.

It’s fun now for Cinotte to return to competition with friends she missed when Downers Grove North was in remote learning. She is also eager to make up for what was lost last high school season.

“I tried to do as much as I could to get ahead of people,” Cinotte said. “A lot of people didn’t go out, and lost that motivation. I lacked a lot of motivation, but I knew the time would come.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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