Focus On The U.S. Women’s Long Jump Scene

Tianna Bartoletta (r) beat defending champ Brittney Reese for the ’16 Olympic long jump gold. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE LONG JUMP is a fickle event for U.S. women. Unlike certain other disciplines where Team USA is awash in athletes who have made the Olympic qualifying standard already (looking at you, men’s PV), the depth in the long jump indeed looks sparse.

So far just two American women (Brittney Reese and Kenyattia Hackworth) have bettered the Olympic standard of 22-4½ (6.82) since May 1, 2019, when the qualifying window opened. And yet, one would be foolish to count U.S. women out when the time comes to step on the podium.

In fact, after three straight shutouts to start this century, American women took 4 of 6 medals in ’12 and ’16. That included both golds, thanks to Reese (’12) and Tianna Bartoletta (’16). In the last 8 World Championships, Reese accounted for 4 golds, Bartoletta 2 (indoors, Reese has 3 golds, Bartoletta 1).

It’s not just those two 30-something stars who represent a threat to the podium. The United States currently has 5 other active women who have PRs beyond that qualifying standard (see sidebar).

Tori Bowie

The former World champion sprinter only got to jump in Doha because Reese had a defending champion Wild Card. As the USATF 4th-placer, Bowie got a ticket. She made the most of it, jumping to 4th in the World in her only competition after Des Moines. That came after she withdrew from the 100 semis with a muscle twinge.

Now 29, Bowie has a PR of 22-9¾ (6.95) from ’14. Last year she explained her return to the long jump after a 5-year absence: “It’s been so long. I feel like I walked away from long jump with a bad taste in my mouth. In 2014 I went to Poland [World Indoors] and finished in last place.”

Sha’Keela Saunders

The Kentucky alum, now 26, has a best of 22-7¾ (6.90) that she set in winning the ’17 NCAA Indoor title. The next year she won the USATF crown outdoors. Last season, though she didn’t make the Olympic standard, she jumped her way into the WC final, where she placed 9th.

Saunders has been in Austin, working with coach Edrick Floréal and also enjoying her time as a volunteer assistant for the Longhorns. She only jumped twice indoors, but had been hoping to ramp things up with the outdoor season. That’s obviously now on hold.

Quanesha Burks

The winner of the NCAA title for Alabama in ’15—and NCAA Indoors the next year—the 25-year-old placed 4th at the World Indoor in ’18. Later that summer she jumped to the runner-up spot at USATF and placed 2nd at the London World Cup. Last year she ended up 5th at USATF. Though her PR of 22-9 (6.93) dates back to ’15, Burks showed she was ready in the indoor season, flying to the U.S. title with her 22-2¼ (6.76).

She wrote on Instagram, “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt about postponing the Olympics. Yea, it’s another year to get prepared and be ready. BUT I AM READY! The Trials could’ve been this weekend and I have no doubt in my mind I could have represented my country at the Games. I set a plan and been preparing myself mentally for 4 years and trained my ass off. All of the sacrifices that were made was so I could be in the top shape that I’M IN RIGHT NOW.”

She concluded, “It’s hard given the health circumstances… Back to the drawing board.”

Kate Hall

Having left Georgia with a year of eligibility still remaining, the national prep recordholder at 22-5 (6.83)—still her PR—is back training with her high school coach, Chris Pribish. At Georgia she won the ’17 NCAA, and Indoors the next year. Last year she won the USA Indoor title but ended her season after struggling to a 10th place finish in Des Moines.

After placing 2nd at USATF Indoor this winter with a jump of 21-11½ (6.69), she said, “I did pretty well this indoor season and we’re just going into a strength phase, and then we were going to start the season in mid-April, and hopefully get the standard.” That timetable has changed, but Hall, a Type 1 diabetic, is fine with putting health first. “I’m not really sure what would happen if I got it. There are so many unknowns with this virus.”

Jasmine Todd

Todd has a best of 22-5¼ (6.84) from ’15, the year she placed 4th in both the NCAA and USATF meets. An equally adept sprinter, the 25-year-old has a dash best of 10.92 and a relay silver from the ’15 Worlds. Last summer she was USATF runner-up in the jump behind Reese.

Writing on Instagram just before news of the Olympic postponement, the Oregon alum said, “Everybody’s health is important. The hard truth is as an unsponsored athlete & also one who was planning on retiring after 2021, this not only affects everything, but changes everything for me and my plans. Although I’m calm about it, the uncertainty of it all is scary and disappointing, but I’d rather be able to properly train as an Olympic hopeful no matter what the postponement is.” (Continued below)

Also In The Mix

Others we expect to see in action once the sport comes out of mothballs:

Keturah Orji, 24, primarily a triple jumper, is also solid in the single bounce, ranking No. 6 among Americans last year. Her PR of 22-4¼ (6.81) is just a tick short of standard. The 24-year-old has an NCAA title in the event to go with her Pan-Am silver.

Jasmyn Steels, 21, of Northwestern Louisiana will still have collegiate eligibility remaining in ’21. She’s the reigning NCAA Indoor champion and was runner-up outdoors last year with her PR 22-¼ (6.71).

Malaina Payton, 28, has improved steadily the last few years and snagged her third U.S. Ranking (No. 9) last season. The Cal alum has a best of 22-¼ (6.71) and recently said on Instagram, “Tokyo 2021, I’m all for it. Let’s go!”

Aliyah Whisby, 22, leaped 22-2¼ (6.76) for Georgia last season and later finished 8th in the NCAA. She also made All-America in the pentathlon indoors.

And don’t forget hurdler/jumper Tara Davis, who sat out the collegiate wars for a year after her transfer from Georgia to Texas. In 2017 she ranked No. 5 among Americans. A year later she won the World Junior bronze. Still only 20, her best of 22-1 (6.73) puts her firmly in the mix.

What Bartoletta has described as a “holding pattern” applies to all of these athletes. She adds, “Even now, with the news that the Olympics won’t happen this year, I’m still training because I’ve lost so much time getting back to healthy.”

It’s safe to say that after the shock of what C19 has done to the track world, her competition is going to be doing all it can too. We can look forward to some sizzling long jump competition when the lights come back on.