Payment Raised the Bar
By Linda Bouvet & Rob Roos Sault Evening News
Seven feet, one inch.
It's a number that stands out in Upper Peninsula sports history, and it has now been 23 years since John Payment set a state record in the high jump. Payment remembers the spring of 1989, during which he set the state record by clearing 7 feet, 1 inch at the Upper Peninsula State Finals Marquette High School, like it was yesterday.
"It sinks in more all of the time," Payment said. "Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. All of the time people are asking me about it, asking me if the record still stands." On that historic day in 1989, Payment passed the 6-10 milestone that had been "blocking" him throughout his high school career.
The rest is history.
"I told myself, that was my last meet" Payment said. "Once I cleared 6-10 it was a big weight off my shoulders."
When the P.A. announcer said that the bar had been raised to 7-0, all eyes in the U.P Finals crowd turned to the high jump pit. A huge gathering of competitors surrounded the area. Payment's coaches John Morrison and Jim Innerebner strained to watch from behind a fence.
Payment missed twice at 7-0, and then successfully cleared the bar to tie the 10-year old state record. He cleared 7-1 on his next attempt and the stadium exploded in celebration.
"John felt he could get 7 feet," Morrison told The Sault Evening News. "That was his goal. John has always been able to do what he's put his mind to."
In reality, Payment's achievement was a team effort. Bob Carrick and Kevin Sutton helped Brimley finish 1-2-3 in the Class D high jump that year.
Carrick worked with Payment on his approach, since in past meets he was missing because he was jumping too far from the bar. Payment changed from a "J" approach to straight on. He also started his approach a step closer to the pin instead of in the grass.
"He surprised everybody, himself included," Carrick said. "It was just awesome to see everybody come out of the stands like they did. It was unreal how many people got into it."
Payment remains the only U.P. athlete to hold a statewide track record in all divisions/classes.
Payment estimates he has watched the videotape and DVD of his performance 1,000 times. A banner in his name hangs in Brimley's gym near the ceiling just out of his reach.
Photographs courtesy of the Payment family