Five feet and eight inches. For most this is just an average height, but for senior Grace Pickell it was a goal to be reached while in high school. In high-jump, five feet and eight inches sets a girl among the elite athletes in the country. This was a group that she wanted to be a part of, and strove to reach.
When Pickell not only met her record at the first meet of the year, but won state two months later with a jump of five feet and ten and a half inches everyone expected her to go far. Now, competing in nationals with the possibility of going to the Olympic trials or competing in Junior Olympics in Spain almost seems unreal to her.
“The thought that I’m that close to Olympic trials hasn’t even hit me yet,” said Pickell. “It would obviously be the coolest thing ever and something to tell my grandchildren about.”
One of Pickell’s biggest supporters is her father, Tim Pickell. Tim was a high jumper in high school with the same coach as Grace, and for him, his daughter’s season has been magical. According to Tim, his daughter being proud of herself is of utmost importance.
“I’m obviously very proud, but I’m hope she is proud of herself,” said Pickell. “I’m proud of her for using her talent and doing a good job.”
To both Grace and Tim, one of the best moments of the season was the moment when she won the State meet. Grace got off the mat, ran up the hill, and embraced her father.
“Grace getting her best mark, at the perfect time was cool,” said Tim, “particularly with her running up the hill and giving me a hug. As a parent that’s really cool.”
When Grace jumps today in Bloomington, Indiana at nationals she has the possibility of participating in meets that most athletes can only dream of. With a jump of six feet she will be able to participate in the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. However, if Grace doesn’t reach the six foot mark, but places in the top four, she will be eligible to compete in Spain at Junior Olympics.
If Grace were to reach any of the meets it would be something that high-jump coach Chuck Sulzen has never had a jumper do. To Grace, Sulzen is invaluable. Between the extra practices he drives 45 minutes to meet her for, and the behind the scenes help, Grace views him as the unsung hero. However, Sulzen views his job as preparing Grace mentally for such important meets.
“I try to give her the confidence that she knows how to adjust,” said Sulzen. “And I know that she can.”
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s meet, Grace plans on continuing conditioning. She attributes her break-out season to time in the weight room and more playing time in basketball. For Grace, this season has been great, but she hopes that she hasn’t peaked yet, and by tweaking the little details she can have an even more magical senior season.
Pickell jumped five feet, seven inches and did not place at the meet. With the track season drawn to a close, Pickell will return to basketball conditioning with the hopes of becoming stronger and having an even better 2013 season.