Most world-class athletes would probably never consider even momentarily awaking from the Olympic dream.

They wouldn’t put things at risk. They wouldn’t tinker.

And they likely wouldn’t, in the eyes of many, jeopardize their chances by giving in to an entirely separate competitive urge to play another sport.

They’re not Sharon Day.

“Sometimes high jumpers are a little bit on the extreme side of their personality,” Cal Poly jumps coach Jack Hoyt says. “I think she’s a little more well-rounded.”

Hoyt admits he was at first a tad dismayed at the prospect of Day – his Olympic-hopeful star – wanting to dabble in soccer last season after redshirting in 2006. After all, such multitasking could be draining or lead to injury.

“That was a little scary,” Hoyt says.

But Day couldn’t resist.

“She decided to go out for the soccer team when she wasn’t going to because she was going to concentrate on making the Olympic team,” Hoyt recalls. “And she called me after watching a soccer game; she’d been crying watching the game because she wasn’t playing.”

An All-Big West Conference Second Team-caliber season later, Day was ready to pick up where she left off.

“I was like, ‘If you need to go out for the soccer team, go out for the soccer team,’ ” Hoyt says. “That’s part of her personality. She didn’t want to just be focused on the Olympics all year long. That worked well for her, to kind of have off time and then charge it back up.”

Apparently it worked. Her dreams became a reality July 4 – about three weeks after graduating from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology – when she finished third in the women’s high jump finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

By clearing 6 feet, 3 ¬ inches, she became the ninth former Mustang to become an Olympian.

“Little by little, it’s sinking in,” Day says. “It’s a huge honor. I can’t even begin to explain what it means.”

It’s been a self-professed “long road back” to such fulfillment for Day, the 2005 college outdoor national champion and a seven-time All-American while at Cal Poly.

She overcame a fifth-metatarsal fracture in 2006, requiring two surgeries over a four-month period and forcing her to redshirt in track and field as well.

“I’d hear the crutches go down the hallway past my office,” Hoyt remembers. “For about six months, I’d hear those crutches. I still hear them. . Working through that was a real challenge, and to overcome that was huge.”

Graceful as she may look soaring over the bar, Day’s physical talents may be offset by that less obvious, relentless determination.

“I had to keep at it, working hard and staying dedicated,” Day says. “You have to be as perfect as possible every day.”

Prior to the trials, Day signed a professional contract with ASICS, which also sponsors Amy Acuff, now a four-time Olympian who finished second at 6-4. (Chaunte Howard won at 6-5 «.)

Fourteen women throughout the world have jumped higher than Day this year, with Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic leading with a June 22 leap of 6-9. Not too far behind are Germany’s Ariane Friedrich (6-8) and Russia’s Elena Slesarenko (6-7 «).

Day’s personal-best 6-4 _ came May 17, but as long as she can stay “fresh and rested,” clear her first attempts and “get in the range of 6-6, she can be really competitive,” Hoyt says.

That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, Hoyt says, as she was about three inches above the 6-3 ¬ bar she cleared at the trials.

Day says she’ll train 15 to 20 hours per week leading up to her departure for Beijing, where she plans to fully partake in the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies.

Her event’s qualifying round is Aug. 21, with the finals two days later.

Regardless of the outcome, the 23-year-old Costa Mesa native says she’ll revel in the moment.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Day says. “I want to get the whole experience.

“It’s definitely been a crazy month with graduation, (the college outdoor national championships), the trials and getting a contract with ASICS,” she says.

When asked if things can get any better, though, she doesn’t hesitate.

“Oh, definitely,” she says. “Who knows where it could take me? We’ll see.”

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