Reaching New Heights

  • May 13, 2008 10:32 PM
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By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
May 13, 2008

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University freshman Katelyn Williams wouldn’t mind stepping back in time to her high school days at West Geauga Lake in Chesterland, Ohio.

  Freshman Katelyn Williams won her section of the high jump at Penn Relays on April 24 with a leap of 5-9.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

That’s when she set an Ohio Division II record in the high jump with a leap of 5-feet-10 ½ inches in the state regional meet. Williams eventually wound up finishing fourth at states with a jump of 5-6.

“The weather was really good when I did that and then in our state meet it was really, really hot,” Williams said. “I ran in the morning and I didn’t have that good of a day. I did three other events.”

Schools began calling her immediately after they found about her jump but she had already signed with West Virginia during the early signing period. Her club coach Mark Menbeszoon knew former WVU coach Jeff Huntoon and took her to Morgantown for an early visit last year and she fell in love with the campus.

“I really liked the coaching and everything. It was kind of close to home being just three hours away,” she said. “I wanted to be out of state which was good for me, too.”

Then when she found out Huntoon was leaving for Indiana last summer she was concerned about the makeup of the program. Those concerns were alleviated when longtime assistant Sean Cleary got the job.

“I’m really glad they brought in Sean as head coach and after I talked to him the first time I knew I was going to stay here,” Williams said. “I knew everything was going to be OK and things were going to be as good as before or better.”

Katelyn has really come on during the outdoor season, reaching the regional qualifying height at the WVU Invitational before hitting her season-best jump of 5-feet-9 inches at Penn Relays. That performance was good enough to win her division.

“The week before I jumped really well at home and I got my regional qualifying mark so I came in knowing that I could jump good again,” Williams explained. “I was hoping to do well but I really didn’t think I would jump that high. I thought that wouldn’t come until later. I ended up winning my section which was really exciting even though I wasn’t in the championship section.”

Williams followed that up with a strong performance at Big East, finishing tied for third.

“That was good because I wanted to get up on the podium,” Williams said. “That was my goal was to get up on the podium.”

Presently, the freshman is ranked 26th in the country and seventh in the East Region. According to Williams, the top six performers from each regional meet qualify for nationals.

“Sometimes you can get an at-large bid if you have a good enough height and they need to take more,” Williams said.

Shelly Galimore, WVU assistant coach in charge of jumpers, believes Williams is just scratching the surface as a high jumper.

“What we’ve been focusing on is technique,” Galimore said. “Sometimes you get to the point where the height that you actually jump might not be what your PR is because you’re still learning something new. Basically we’re working on trying to clean up her technique a bit and then hopefully she has a breakthrough jump where she hits her PR by a lot. Right now she’s doing well and being patient with it and trying to learn a lot more.”

Williams admits most of what she has been able to achieve so far has come through natural talent.

“There are so many things that need to go right to get a good jump,” Williams said. “I worked with my dad (Wayne) before and he coached me with high jump. He tried to fix things but he doesn’t know the technical stuff that Shelly knows.”

Williams doesn’t fit the profile of your typical elite high jumper standing just 5-7. But Galimore says she makes up for that with strength and natural ability.

“She’s a raw talent and basically it’s just trying to hone all of her skills,” Galimore said. “She’s really strong and that’s where she makes up for not being tall.”

Williams can comfortably cross the bar at 5-8. Galimore, a 2001 NCAA champion triple jumper at Auburn, explains that consistency is the key to becoming a national caliber jumper.

“Track and field within itself is such an unpredictable thing,” Galimore said. “It’s usually not the best jumper or the best height; it’s the most consistent person. If she can be consistent it’s definitely possible for her to make nationals.”

Six feet is the magical mark for a college women’s high jumper and Williams ultimately has aspirations of one day reaching that goal.

“I started out in eighth grade by jumping 5-7 which is huge for an eighth grader. It took me a long time to work up to 5-10,” Williams said. “I was injured my sophomore year and I had already grown. I finally ended up doing it my senior year.

“I want to clear six. That’s my goal.”

Galimore says it’s definitely possible.

“She’s really hard on herself. She really wants to achieve a lot,” Galimore explained. “That coupled with breaking those bad habits - it’s definitely possible for her to break through and do well.”

Williams will get another crack at reaching her PR this weekend at the ECAC Outdoor Championships in Princeton, N.J. In two weeks come the NCAA East Regionals, May 30-31.