Curtis earns All-American honors

Gabe Davis

The ISU women’s track indoor season has come to a close, but for Gina Curtis, the new All-American in the high jump, there are many happy moments to remember.

In her trek to become an All-American, Curtis cleared a height that she’d never cleared before, set a new ISU high jump record and beat out 11 other NCAA competitors to end up sixth in the nation.

Accompanying Curtis down to Fayetteville, Ark. was her ISU jumping coach Ron McEachran. McEachran plays the roles of the demanding coach, loving parent, supporting friend and consoling grandparent for Curtis through all of her ups and downs.

“She did a great job,” McEachran said. “It was phenomenal.”

Curtis’ final height of six feet was a pleasant surprise for McEachran who had watched Curtis struggle with knee injuries until this year.

“She’s done real well coming off of changing legs,” McEachran said. “It was a great time to [jump six feet] and she almost made the next height of 6′ 3/4,” which would have put her in second place.”

The success of the day could not be fully appreciated without the remembrance of the past, McEachran said.

“We had a little bit of an idea what she could do from last year when she jumped 5′ 8 3/4″ twice at the end of the season,” he said. “This year we just started off with the mentality that this is no longer the other leg. This is now the jump leg.”

That mentality apparently was all Curtis needed to soar to new heights. McEachran said that once she got used to the reverse approach, things just fell into place.

“She became more and more comfortable with her approach and with jumping off that leg, and as she got more comfortable she got a little bit more aggressive which allowed her to continue to jump higher,” he said.

When Curtis got to the meet she was really “kind of freaking out,” she said.

“I was really nervous. I did just a couple practice jumps,” Curtis said. “At the actual competition, that whole morning, I was just trying to get mentally prepared.”

Curtis said she was so nervous when the competition started that she missed the opening height at 5’7″.

“I usually start at 5’3. So to come in at 5’7 3/4 I thought `I have to make this,'” she said. “To clear it helped to get the nervous jitters out.”

Heading into uncharted territory was enough to make Curtis plenty nervous, but by the end of the day after she cleared six foot on her final attempt, Curtis was still looking to improve her height.

“The next height,185 [centimeters], was a height that I’d never seen before. I had one really good attempt, one kind of solid attempt and one that was probably not even notable. I’d attempted 183 before, but I’d never attempted anything higher,” Curtis said.

Her coach also said that she was at the top of her game on the ninth.

“She was working on 1.85 meters and she ended up taking it off with her ankles. She was all the way over. It was really quite a jump,” McEachran said.

As part of the excitement of the day, Curtis not only ranked sixth, became an All-American and set a new school record; she also became a six foot jumper.

“The six foot puts you in a class above,” McEachran said.

“It’s kind of the elite class of over-six-foot jumpers. It’s a new footmark, there’s a lot more that can’t jump six feet than that can.”

After Curtis was done jumping, she sat down and started to cry.

“There were some other high jumpers standing around me and I was kind of crying and I think that some of the girls around there thought that I was upset, but I was just so happy, I was so excited because that had been a dream of mine, to clear six foot since I was a junior [in high school],” Curtis said.

For Curtis, the meet was as emotionally challenging as it was physically, she said.

“It took a toll on me because I just was so incredibly nervous and worried,” she said.

“Then when I was done, it was such an emotional release.

“I never would have guessed that I’d have this opportunity,” Curtis said.

For Curtis, the indoor season is over, but the outdoor season is just beginning.

“She’s a great lady and now she’s an All-American,” McEachran said. “Doing what she did indoors will continue to help her outdoors. The confidence thing is huge.”