Knee surgery and a strenuous weightlifting program have enabled David Daigler to become the area's first high school high jumper since 1982 to clear seven feet.

Only 10 months ago, following a water skiing accident, Daigler was told by doctors that he probably would never be able to jump competitively again. But Daigler underwent arthroscopic surgery in July to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. Now, competing for Oakton, he is favored to win the AAA Northern Region title this weekend.

Since his injury, Daigler has pushed himself harder in his preparation for each meet. During his rehabilitation, he increased his workout time to build up his lower back and leg muscles. He is now able to squat 300 pounds and power press 255.

The need of a strong lower body is a must for high jumpers. For Daigler, it is also the focal point of his rehabilitation and comeback. It is Daigler's right knee, the one he injured, that must be able to stop on a dime 18 inches from the bar and give him the needed lift when he jumps.

Once he gets airborne, it is practice, education and body control that take over. Daigler turns his knee, which makes his back parallel to the bar, kicks up his legs, and makes sure his hips do not drop. One slip-up in body control will ensure contact with the bar, and failure. This is something that Daigler has worked many hours to avoid.

"Dave is pretty much a driven kid," said Oakton Coach Drexell George. "When Dave puts his mind to it, he can do anything. He is definitely the best high jumper I have ever coached."

Daigler's desire to succeed has been a trademark since he transferred to Oakton two years ago. Just four months after surgery, Daigler was once again jumping.

"In November, Dave told me that he wanted to begin jumping again," said George. "I told him that the only free time we had, and the only facility we could use, was the school gym in the morning before school started. Yet Dave was there, four days a week from 6:30 to 7:15 a.m."

In recent weeks, Daigler and George have had to readjust their goals. When Daigler began jumping again, he set goals of 6 feet 8 indoors and 6-10 outdoors. He reached both heights during the indoor track season. Two weeks ago at the T.C. Williams Invitational, he cleared 7 feet. Daigler made 7-0 again this past Saturday when he won the Northern District meet at T.C. Williams. His new goal is 7-1.

The high jump style Daigler uses is called the Fosbury Flop. An easier definition would be the back flip. The jumper leaps parallel to the bar and turns in midair to the point where his back is parallel to the obstacle.

"Before I transferred to Oakton from O'Fallon, Ill. after his sophomore year ," Daigler said, "I had only learned the basics of high jumping. Coach George has really helped me work on my technique, my form, and building up my endurance. If I hadn't had his support, along with him pushing me all year, I would not be where I am now."

Besides weightlifting, Daigler has built himself up through sprinter workouts. "Sprinter workouts are good for high jumpers because they develop muscle tone and they build up your endurance.

"I only practice jumping twice a week, and it is usually about half a foot less than what I will attempt in a meet. During practice, you look to work on fundamentals. Jumping is very strenuous, so you cannot overdo it in practice.

"You can never be satisfied when you reach a goal. You must always continue to push yourself."

Looking past the high school track season and approaching graduation, Daigler plans to take a week off to go to the beach, then compete in the TAC Junior Nationals at Towson State University on June 26.

Daigler, undecided what college he will attend, said he has scholarship offers from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina State and Mississippi.