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Women in high jump reaching for new heights

by Alyssa Daley-EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Tue, Apr 4th 2017 10:30 pm
Photos courtesy of the Brockport Athletic Communications via Flickr
Photos courtesy of the Brockport Athletic Communications via Flickr

 One step in front of the other following the invisible arc on the ground leading up to the bar hoisted above the mat, seven feet in the air. Gaining speed as you move, right before you get to the mat you rotate and carry your momentum through your body up and over, all the while your back is facing the mat. Leaping through the air remembering to drive the leg opposite your plant foot up and arc your back as you try with all your might not to brush the bar hard enough for it to fall.

High jumping is one of the many events that have been incorporated into the overarching term, track and field. The first people to ever try it launched themselves into the air over 200 years ago in Scotland.

Of course the first high jumpers were not using the same approach as the eight  high jumpers at The College at Brockport use today. In the very beginning they approached the bar diagonally instead of straight on and with an arc like athletes do today. Once they were right on top of the bar early high jumpers also used a scissor technique where they first threw their inside leg and then their outside leg over the bar in a scissoring motion, according to greatestsportingnation.com.

Seniors Kevin Huber and Frankie Okereke, junior Damian Fender, freshmen Hunter Louth, Dan Geist and Adonis Davis all have committed themselves to competing in high jump as Golden Eagles for the men's indoor and outdoor track and field teams. Freshmen Jess Martin and Izzy Smardz-Snyder both high jump for the Brockport women's indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

With only two female Golden Eagles competing versus their six male counterparts it makes one wonder how many women versus men compete in high jump at the national level as well. The world record gender gap between women and men ranges from 5.5 percent to 18.8 percent with jumping events having the largest mean gap at 17.5 percent, according to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. This tells us that women have yet to catch up to men in how high/how far they can jump however it does not tell us how many female high jumpers are competing verses male.

Women were only allowed to compete in the Olympic Games until the Paris Games in 1900 and even then the only events they competed in were golf and lawn tennis, according to topendsports.com. So we know that women have competed for less time due to gender stereotyping but we still do not know exact numbers.    

The women's and men's U.S. track and field teams had a total count of 66 and 64 athletes respectively for the Rio Games, according to USA Today. In high jump, the women's team had three high jumpers: Vashti Cunningham, Chaunte Lowe and Inika McPherson. The men's team had one: Erik Kynard.

For the U.S., Lowe actually placed fourth overall while Erik Kynard placed sixth, according to olympic.org.

Based on the compilation of this past year's U.S. track and field teams it would seem that there is not a lack of women competing at the national level in high jump. However, at Brockport there seems to be a low number of female student-athletes signing up to dedicate themselves to this event in particular.

Not only are the majority of the Golden Eagles competing in high jump across the board men they are also freshmen. Three out of the six high jumpers for the men's team are freshmen and both the high jumpers for the women's team are freshmen. Even though this is their first year and most likely second season, since they are required to do both indoor and outdoor track, competing in this event at the collegiate level none of them have let the opportunity to jump in pass them by.

"The way I look at it if you picture your high school team and think twice as many teammates and friends that's how college is," Louth wrote in an email. "It's different in a way where it's just a bigger competition. More people in high school don't get the opportunity to compete in college, but the ones that do are really good so it's harder, but in a way it pushes you to do better."

Each freshman had SUNYACs on their list of achievements set for this year's outdoor season which began Saturday, March 25. Making it to SUNYACs will be the first step each of these student-athletes have at moving onward and upward this season and in future seasons at Brockport.

A big influence on Louth, Geist and Davis are their older, more experienced teammates. In Huber, Okereke and Fender the younger athletes found mentors and role models who helped in the transition the young men had to go through at the beginning of this year.

"I love those guys," Louth wrote. "They push me to my limits they have been around for longer than I have and when they compliment me or help me get one thing down it's amazing. They aren't just teammates they are friends! Not only do they help with track they help with personal issues and things that real friends go out of their way to help you with."

Louth's words prove how excited the team is about how well the new members this year are fitting in and hints at the team's outlook for the rest of this outdoor season. Finally, able to practice outside on the track, in the actual jumping pits and in the throwing areas is an automatic uplift for the teams after being stuck indoors for the winter season.

It's first two meets one being the Jim Taylor Invitational at Susquehanna University and the other against SUNY Geneseo have given both the women's and men's teams an idea of the competition they will be facing off against this year.

In high jump Martin placed sixth against Geneseo and Huber placed third. The student-athletes have plenty of room to grow but are also showing great promise for SUNYACs and beyond.


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