Fightmaster takes flight By Sam Chandler

Samford University junior high jumper Keyth Fightmaster stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall. The highest bar he's ever cleared stood 7 feet, 2.5 inches. "Just going up there and clearing a bar that's taller than you is just always really cool," he said.
In preparation for the upcoming indoor track and field season, Fightmaster occasionally practices jumping at the Birmingham CrossPlex, which is a state-of-the-art athletic facility near the Ensley neighborhood. Most of Samford's indoor meets are held at the CrossPlex, and Fightmaster has traditionally competed well there. As a freshman in 2015, he won his first Southern Conference title at the facility with an indoor school-record leap 2.15 meters. That converts to just over 7 feet.
But not all of Fightmaster's CrossPlex memories are good ones. Last winter, he tore a muscle in his left foot during a preseason practice. Fightmaster jumps off that foot, and the injury affected him throughout the indoor season. After winning conference his freshman year, he placed fourth as a sophomore. "I hurt it really bad during conference," he said. "I was really upset." Fightmaster redshirted last spring's outdoor season to allow the injury time to heal.
Nearly a year after initially injuring his size 15 foot, Fightmaster said he now feels healthy. He's been training regularly since the beginning of the school year. Throughout his comeback, he said one of his chief priorities has been to regain consistency in his approach. Fightmaster starts each approach approximately 45 feet from the pit, running a half parabola before leaping over the bar.
Fightmaster said his number one goal for the season is to stay healthy. But that's not his only objective. Fightmaster said he would like to reach the same height this indoor season as he did his freshman year. Last winter, he fell short of that mark. During the outdoor season, which starts in March, Fightmaster said he wants to set a new personal record and become a First Team All-American. As a freshman, he claimed Samford's outdoor school record with a leap of 7 feet, 2.5 inches, and he finished 19th at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The top 20 finish resulted in Fightmaster earning the designation Honorable Mention All-American. The top eight finishers garner First Team status. "First Team is my goal," Fightmaster said.
Fightmaster, however, is more than just an athlete. He's a student in Samford's Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education. Upon graduation, Fightmaster said he wants to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a teacher. Fightmaster's father teaches Latin, and his mother teaches special education. "I just like kids in general, "Fightmaster said. "It's fun."
To prepare for his future career, Fightmaster spent the fall semester student-teaching at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover. He instructed multiple lessons, including one on Dec. 6. For his final lesson of the semester, Fightmaster taught his kids a handful of new vocabulary words and then had them complete a series of exercises to enhance their mastery. Although he said he would prefer to teach special education, Fightmaster said he enjoyed spending time immersed in a regular education setting. "That's actually been a lot of fun," he said, "so I wouldn't mind doing that either."
In addition to teaching, Fightmaster said he also aspires to become a coach. He would like to coach track, he said, but would also consider coaching basketball. Fightmaster started three years at center for Calhoun (Ga.) High School, where he didn't tower over the competition as much as he now towers over his fourth grade students at Trace Crossings. "When you teach, you can be a coach, and I really want to coach too," Fightmaster said.
Fightmaster locks in when it's time to perform whether on the track or in the classroom. He's chasing his dreams, and is helping his students do the same. The sky, it seems, is the limit for both parties.

Credits:

Sam Chandler

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