IT HELPS TO BE PERFECT in the high jump, but Zarriea Willis felt that she was anything but this year. The favored Texas Tech senior, winner of the Indoor title, admitted, “I’ve been going through a lot of things this year. I feel like I struggled during the outdoor season a lot.” Yet there she was on the meet’s final day, reeling off perfect clearance after perfect clearance. If there was any complication, it was that North Carolina junior Nicole Greene, No. 2 on the formchart, was doing the exact same thing.
Through the early heights the pair had sailed. When they cleared 5-11¼ (1.81) along with 6 others, they assured they would be among the scorers. The next height, 6-½ (1.87), assured them of podium spots, along with Penn’s Anna Peyton Malizia, who had a missed once at a lower height. The bar raised to 6-1½ (1.87): first Greene and then Willis cleared with ease, while Malizia went out. At the next stop, 6-2¾ (1.90), Greene missed. Fans thought the drama would be resolved in short order. But then Willis knocked the bar off as well. And so it played on to the next attempt. And the next.
The two, deadlocked with identical charts after three straight misses, faced a jumpoff, the first in meet history. Greene missed. And Willis missed as well. The fatigue and frustration on the toasty apron was beginning to show for both. Officials took the bar down to 6-2 (1.88). Greene missed, brushing the bar with her backside. Willis, to a huge response from the crowd, cleanly sailed over. She stood up and let out a brief scream of joy after setting a new outdoor PR.
“I’ve never done a jumpoff,” said the winner. “Either I just lose or win. There’s no such thing as a perfect competition, but today was one of those where the better jumper was going to get it or someone with the strongest mentality today was going to get it.” She added, “My coach can tell you that I’m the least emotional athlete he’s ever had. The most emotion I’ve shown was today.” Coach James Thomas agreed, saying, “She’s always battling to get better. When she’s on and competing, she’s a monster out there.”
Said Greene, “The competition was amazing. It just came down to who wanted it more and I fell short, but after coming off a full redshirt season, I couldn’t be more proud of myself and what I did today.”
NCAA WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
1. Zarriea Willis (TxT) 6-2 (1.88) outdoor PR (jumpoff);
2. *Nicole Greene (NC) 6-1½ (1.87);
3. Anna Peyton Malizia (Penn) 6-½ (1.84) PR;
4. *Abigail Kwarteng’ (Al) 5-11¼ (1.81);
5. *Karla Teran’ (Az) 5-11¼;
=6. ***Sanaa Barnes (Vill) 5-11¼;
=6. *Ellen Ekholm’ (Ky) 5-11¼;
8. Stacey Destin (Al) 5-11¼;
9. Andrea Stapleton-Johnson (BYU) 5-10 (1.78);
10. *Ann Wingeleth (OrSt) 5-10 PR;
11. **Iesha Hamm (CSF) 5-10;
=12. Logan Boss (MsSt) 5-10;
=12. Alexus Henry (UTA) 5-10;
=12. Rachel Reichenbach (Stan) 5-10;
=12. **Kameesha Smith (IlSt) 5-10;
=16. **Nicola Ader’ (Nv) 5-8¾;
=16. **Tyra Gittens’ (TxAM) 5-8¾;
=16. Sashane Hanson’ (AMCC) 5-8¾;
=19. Skyler Daniel (Aub) 5-8¾;
=19. Bria Palmer (LBSt) 5-8¾;
=21. Clarissa Cutliff (FlInt) 5-7 (1.70);
=21. ***Sakari Famous’ (Ga) 5-7;
=21. *Jada Harris (MaA) 5-7;
24. *Mikella Lefebvre-Oatis’ (Md) 5-7.