NEW BRITAIN — He bounced from the long jump pit over to the high jump and back to the triple jump pit. Never did Justin Forde look flustered. Never did Justin Forde show much emotion.
Amid the frenzy of his three field events at the CIAC State Open on Monday, the Brien McMahon senior was a study in calm. Between jumps, he’d hit his iPhone and text a bit. His hair in dreads, tips dyed blond, an earring in each lobe, black shorts, white McMahon shirt with red lettering, Forde was at once serene and power ready to erupt.
The guy just looked like he was going to win. And win he did.
Forde won the long jump at 23-5.75 and didn’t take all his attempts because he had to jog over to the high jump …
Where he finished second at 6-8 behind a state record of 7-0.5 by rival Chet Ellis of Staples.
A couple of hours after he started, demonstrating resilience and patience, Forde would pop a triple jump of 50-2 in his fifth jump to win that event, too. He fouled his last attempt, shrugged and accepted the results of his final high school meet on Connecticut soil.
Forde finished with 28 points, single-handedly defeating all but three schools.
He set no meet records on this day. He hit no personal bests. He just showed again how dominant he is.
“Personally, I’m really never satisfied unless I beat my PR,” Forde said. “I guess I’ll take it. I won the meet. I’ve just got to work harder, practice and get ready for nationals.”
Dominance can be a strange and fascinating thing. Especially in high school. Especially in individual pursuits like track and field.
It can end as quickly as a starter’s gun.
And so did on Monday.
Entering this meet, there were no more dominant performers than Forde and Terry Miller.
Miller, a transgender athlete from Bloomfield, had dominated the spring sprints just as she had dominated the winter and the spring before. Class titles, state titles, New England titles, they have piled up one on top of the other. Nothing could stop Miller.
Her 11.64 time in the 100 prelims was the best in meet history.
“We were very close in the (Class S) meet, so I thought maybe today I’d be able to catch her,” Canton junior Chelsea Mitchell said. “But after she ran 11.64, I was like, ‘It’s OK, I’ll try to get under 12 seconds.’ That was my goal. But after the false start, I’m like, ‘This is yours. This is your chance. This is it.’ ”
Yes, it was it.
Miller jumped the gun and was disqualified. Mitchell, who turned in a 12.02 in the prelims, produced an eye-popping 11.67 with a 2.8 mph wind to take the 100 finals.
“I’m in awe,” Mitchell said. “I never thought I could run that. It’s absolutely crazy.”
There are few controversies that rage more in the sports world than transgenders competing in female athletic events. Many feel it is right. Many feel it is wrong.
So it was no surprise for these ears to hear, “All is right with the world” after Miller’s DQ. Words like “karma” popped up, too. The world is a tough place.
Others would insist that all was right in that world when Miller, a junior, rebounded to win the 200 in 24.33, just shy of the meet record 24.17 she set in 2018.
“I was more motivated to get this win,” Miller said after the 200. “It made me push harder.”
So what happened in the 100?
“I didn’t have any spikes,” Miller said. “My spikes fell out. I was upset. All I can do is move on from here.”
Forde will move on to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina in a few weeks. He will not compete in the New England meet. He will have his wisdom teeth removed Tuesday and will need a few days to recover.
“Justin held off the last month on the wisdom teeth,” McMahon coach Pat Bradley said. “And I do think he’s a little tired. So it isn’t the worst thing.”
Forde has appeared in plenty of videos, continually documenting his victories in the jumps. There is one video he jokes that he hopes to avoid. Those post-wisdom teeth removal videos make people social media sensations.
“I hope I don’t whack in front of my mom,” Forde said.
It’s fascinating. The one time Forde broke into a big smile Monday was when he missed at 6-10 in the high jump to finish second. As he hyped himself for that last jump, he nearly hit his head on the football crossbar. Everyone clapped rhythmically. He just missed. He walked away, but he returned to watch Ellis clear 7-0.5 and congratulate him.
Forde’s raw talent, his sports IQ, his muscular physique, Bradley has called Forde an incredible athlete. An incredible athlete who wanted to go out with a bang. He wanted to hit big in the triple.
“It’s his favorite,” Bradley said. “He wanted the meet record.”
That was 50-4 1/2. He missed by two inches.
“A day like this is a test of his work ethic and how far he has come,” Bradley said. “Two years ago, it was tough for him to complete three events. Now he looks good. His best jump came on his fifth jump here.”
He set a long jump PR of 24-6.25 at the FCIAC meet and a triple jump PR of 51-9.75 at the Penn Relays. He hit 52 in practice. His PR in the high jump is 7-0.
“It’s hard for me,” Forde said. “Other people can focus on one event. I’m trying to win three. If I had hit 51 I would you would have seen me a little more excited. But I don’t stress meet records.”
It is no wonder Forde was looking at a number of big-time track schools. Indiana, Arizona UCLA, Oregon — he chose Miami.
“When I visited Miami, it felt like home,” Forde said. “Everybody I met there had the same attitude, they wanted to be the best they can be. That’s what I live by, not satisfied unless I beat my PR.”
“Miami is perfect for Justin,” Bradley said.
Forde has talked about finding inspiration in the competitiveness and versatility of Olympic jumping medalist Will Claye. Claye released an album bridging several genres from hip hop to reggae to jazz. Forde wants to do both, too. For now, he will find his reward for that competitiveness and versatility in the form of a college scholarship.
“My mom (Lisette) doesn’t have to worry about paying for college,” Forde said. “I don’t have to worry about it. Hopefully, one day I can be the best at this. I want to be the best ever and that would present a lot of opportunities for my family. That’s how I think. It all started at McMahon. I’m thankful how much it changed everything for me.”
“He has been such a great model for our school,” Bradley said. “He means everything to us. He’s the face of our program. He is a wonderful face to have. He’s not just an athlete. He’s a good kid, he has a good heart. Kids will come up to him and he’s always very humble about. He’s a great model for our school.”