Just a year ago, Mount Hebron's Josh "Jay" Bair couldn't so much as qualify for the finals of his best event, the triple-jump, at the Howard County championships. With his other event, the 300 hurdles, taking place just before his first jump, he was simply too spent to be effective.
What a difference a year of intensive training has made.
At this year's Howard County meet, the senior scored victories in both, also running the leadoff leg on his team's third-place 4 x 100 relay, to help lead the Vikings to a lopsided team victory.
Question:: What is it about the triple-jump that suits you so well?
Answer:: It just came to me very easy, where in hurdling I had to work at it. I'm not saying I don't work at triple-jump, but it was more of a natural feel for me.
Question:: According to your coaches, a big key to your improvement in track and field has been your increased commitment to the sport. At what point did you realize that putting more time into it could pay dividends?
Answer:: I would say the summer going into my junior year. I felt like I could always be good if I put my mind to it and focused on it. I just didn't know that it would come this quick.
Question:: You began running AAU track during the summer. What else did you do to try and improve your conditioning?
Answer:: I got into the weight room a little bit, and my training started getting more rigorous. I've done a lot of squatting and a lot of work on my quads. Not with real heavy weights ... more of lighter weight but more reps.
Question:: You specialize in two events - the triple-jump and 300 hurdles - that often run simultaneously in meets. How difficult has it been for you to compete in both?
Answer:: Well, it goes back to last year, when I did it at counties. I just wasn't as strong, and I couldn't even get to the finals in triple-jump. I was really tired and didn't have the endurance. But this year, I've gotten so much stronger that I was able to do both pretty well. My concern was being able to compete at my highest level.
Question:: At the county meet, you also had to briefly leave the triple-jump to run the leadoff leg in your third event, the 4 x 100 relay. Do you ever just wish that you had a little more time to rest?
Answer:: Yeah, I wish they were a little farther apart.
Question:: You've been busy looking at colleges. Do you think you'll be able to make a decision pretty soon?
Answer:: Not yet. I'm leaning toward Maryland, but it would just be a walk-on thing. I'm also thinking about a couple of junior colleges, getting stronger for two years, then going to a Division I college. Right now I'm only like two feet off from where most colleges start to turn heads. I feel like I'm right there - I'm starting to peak at the right time.
Question:: You're considered sort of the jokester of the team. Do you think it's important to keep everyone loose?
Answer:: I'd say so. During practice, I'm like the jokester, just trying to keep everybody loose. But usually on meet days, I'm more to myself. When it's time to start doing your running and your jumping, it's time to go. There's no joking.
Question:: What else do you like to do aside from track? Any hobbies?
Answer:: Yeah, I play drums, and I can sing a little bit too. I was in a band, but not anymore. Now I play at two churches on Sundays. My dad [Hugh] is a pastor at Christian Life Church in Baltimore, so I play at his church every Sunday. At the other church, the minister of music is my friend.
Question:: Sounds like you grew up in a fairly religious household. Do you think that helped shape the person you've become?
Answer:: Yeah, it really did.