This past year I decided that I wanted to sprint again, not only because I am good at it, but because I have a passion for it. I knew that the only way I should step back on the track is if I believed I deserved to be there, because there is no substitute for believing in yourself. I was able to set personal bests this year in both the 100 meters and the long jump and I feel that I am in a great place both mentally and physically to prepare for the 2008 season and the Olympic Games in Beijing.
I began this season with a set of goals and expectations for myself. This year I was going to be the athlete that I truly wanted to be, and I was going to set out to accomplish what I thought I was capable of. These days, many people know me as a long jumper. That’s what they see me as and for a few years that’s all I really did. But in college I was a sprinter that jumped. I was good at the long jump but I was really only successful because I was fast and I trained primarily as a sprinter throughout my college career. What forced me into becoming “just a jumper” out of college was because I was told by many people that it would be better to choose and focus on becoming great at one thing instead of just being good at a few. At that time it seemed easier to be great at the long jump. I already had won a U.S. title in the long jump and as everyone knows, the sprints are very deep in the U.S. so the logical choice seemed to be that I should stick to jumping.
Last year I made a decision to go back to being the athlete that I felt like on the inside. I felt like I was a great sprinter and I didn’t want to give that up and watch people I competed against all throughout college be successful at the professional level and feel like I could be as well. Not to mention the fact that not sprinting had not turned me into a better jumper. Not at all. So last year I began to make the transition and even though I had decided that was the route I wanted to go, I still didn’t have the perfect situation. I had a “jump-oriented” coach and I was still training primarily as a jumper, which is a bit different than the training you would do if you were an elite sprinter. Nonetheless, I was able to run under my PR 4 different times last year, the fastest being in the prelims at Nationals where I ran 11.10. That puts me in the top 10 in the U.S and it’s not even my main event! The problem was I ran it in the prelims.
My sprinting last year was far from consistent, which was my biggest problem. I had no race model and my start was shaky and unpredictable. But running those times showed me that I was capable of doing so much more. If I could run that fast doing so many things wrong and training the way I did, I knew that putting more focus on my race, learning to start properly, and having the training to get through the rounds would put me right where I needed to be. So that’s how I began this year, with a focus on being a great sprinter again and the desire to run at the Olympic Trials and truly feel like I belonged and that I was just as capable as any of the runners out there. The long jump was still part of the equation, but not my focus. I know I possess the tools to jump far and improving my sprinting would just add to the arsenal so I was going back to being a sprinter that jumped.
The point of me sharing all of this history and internal dialogue is because what I had set out to accomplish and my plan for the Trials is not going to be what I thought it was. I will not be running the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials; I will only be Long Jumping. It may seem like a simple enough decision, but it most definitely was not. I shared the long version with you because people might have been under the assumption that I was running the 100 just because I could. Shoot, I have the A standard, why not? Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and make the final. Except that wasn’t my mentality at all. I trained this year to be able to step out on the track and believe that I could make the team in the 100 meters. I have participated in events before, I wasn’t interested in that. People may look at that event and see how deep we are and how many talented sprinters we have, and think that it would have been a ridiculous long shot. All I know is that when I won my NCAA title in the 200 meters back in 2001 I entered that meet with the 23rd fastest time. There were 24 competitors. Long shot or not, all I need is an opportunity.
But the reality is what it is. Four rounds of racing require a certain level of fitness. Today was my first practice on a track in a month. (warm-up and strides—yay for small victories!) I have a little over four weeks to get back as much as I can. I may have it and I may not but testing it there and finding out that I don’t will be too late. I also would have no races until Trials—so basically I open up in the 100 meters then. Is that impossible? No. It’s just not very smart. And the reason it wouldn’t be very smart is because I am blessed to be talented in 2 different events and if trying to run the 100 takes everything I have, I have nothing left for the long jump. Being fit enough to take 6 jumps is different. Still hard, but different. Making the team in the Long Jump is going to require the absolute best that I have. I’ll have to jump a PR and so I know that I must do whatever I can to give myself the best opportunity for that.
So this incredibly long-winded post is to say that my focus is on the long jump. I wish it could be different but my coach has a plan and I need to follow it and believe in it. There is no point in being greedy and ending up with a sub-par effort by stretching myself too thin. I am already calling in my fair share of favors and blessings to find a way of being prepared to give a max effort in one event after this setback so I will be grateful for that opportunity.