NORWALK — The FCIAC’s best athlete for 2018-19 was, until recently, No. 1 in the nation at his specialty as well. That changed on May 25, when Clarence Foote-Talley won the triple jump at the Maryland state championships with a distance of 51-10.5.
Brien McMahon’s Justin Forde wants — no, is obsessed — with getting those three-quarters of an inch back, the difference from his personal-best jump at the Penn Relays in April. Forde wants to be the best at everything, whether on the track, some day in the music industry or any measured minutiae of everyday life.
If Forde were asked to make a three-minute egg, it most certainly would come it at about 2:58.
“I wish I was like that with school, I’m not going to lie,” Forde said with a smile, days before winning the triple jump and long jump and taking second in the high jump at the State Open, his last time in Connecticut representing the Senators. “If I was like that at school I would probably have straight As. That’s how I think about the bigger picture.”
The bigger picture for Forde are the Olympics, turning professional, being the best in the world and then making or producing big-time rap.
And given Forde’s rapid development in three years, his natural talent and attentive focus, certainly at this stage it would be foolish to call his talk fantasy.
“I’ve always thought big. That’s just how I am,” Forde said. “How I’m going to take care of my family, how I want to live a certain type of life. For me that all goes into track. I want it to be my new career so I get paid. The way I look at it, I’m No. 1 but someone just beat me by an inch so I have to go and do it again. I’m always motivated because I know there’s always someone better than me. There are Olympians that are better than me. I want to be the best of everybody. That’s what motivates me.”
What a fast trip it has been. Forde arrived at McMahon as a basketball and football player. Track at that point was a sport his father thought would be a good fit. A girl that interested Forde was on the track team.
And that’s how Justin Forde became a three-sport athlete.
“I never knew I was good until my junior year,” Forde said. “Freshman year I made it to nationals but track was new to me. It was like going to a carnival or another activity. It didn’t seem big to me. Now when I go to nationals I’m trying to win and everyone knows my name.”
Forde quickly developed as a high jumper, but the triple jump was the perfect blend of his gifts. Speed, agility and power.
“Triple jump just took off for me,” Forde said. “I always did it but after I broke 47 and 48, that’s when I knew I could get good.”
Forde views the event as being the closest to music, another expressive form. It was undoubtedly an attraction.
“It takes a lot to do it,” Forde said. “It may look simple. I do it so I don’t know how it looks for other people. It takes a lot out of you because you have to jump three times, you have to keep your body in the air and you have to run fast. I just feel it’s an art to do it. I have Olympians I look up to. I had to learn about it. There’s a million sprinters but to be the best jumper in the country… And then I get beaten by an inch.”
Forde gave up basketball and football before the start of the year to focus solely on track. It was a transition that did not come easily, especially with basketball.
“I don’t know which one was the hardest,” Forde said. “Football, I’ve always been juggling with it, not playing, playing. But basketball, it was hard for me to just give that up. Not being on the court is something I’m not used to. When I couldn’t play, I didn’t even go to a lot of the games.”
The results of that choice are indisputable. Forde quickly started to dominate the state and continued an upward trajectory nationally. He won the championship at the New Balance Indoors in March.
“It felt good but it’s different,” Forde said. “Track it’s all numbers. When you beat that number you’re excited but you don’t realize you’re No. 1 until after. For that moment you broke your personal record and you’re happy about that. I’m always a person that goes against myself. My personal records, I want to beat them.”
Forde said he has looked up the high school marks of Americans’ Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who went 1-2 at the 2016 Olympics. They were jumping 52. Claye has recorded rap music.
“I look up to Will Claye but I’m not going to lie, I want to be bigger than that,” Forde said. “He makes music but not top-chart music.”
Forde graduates tonight from McMahon, on his 18th birthday. Tomorrow he heads to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, hoping to get his top spot back. Then he is off to the University of Miami.
“I was talking to someone the other day about how out of nowhere I decided to try track and I’m getting a full-ride scholarship to my dream school for jumping,” said Forde, who then paused for a second and smiled.
“My little sister seeing her older brother doing something good, my mom is happy,” Forde said. “It is crazy how things happen. I tell some of the younger kids don’t be scared to try new things. I didn’t even know you could jump for track, I just knew you could run.”