Most Cal Poly graduating seniors have jobs lined up, but few can say they have Olympic aspirations like Cal Poly senior phenom Sharon Day, who hopes to compete in the high jump in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
She’ll have to meet the Olympic “A” standard of 6 feet, 4 _ inches to qualify to compete in the Olympic trials, in which she would have to place in the top three to make Team USA.
Terry Crawford, director of the Cal Poly track and field team, which visits the UCLA Invitational today and Saturday, said Day is on her way to making her dream a reality.
“Sharon has a great start for her last season (at Cal Poly),” Crawford said. “We are excited to see where she will go from now. She will be a top contender.”
Crawford says Day’s performances at top meets this season will put her into a position to be atop the NCAA by the end of June, ready for the trials in July.
In her third meet in 11 days, Day finished second behind three-time Olympian Amy Acuff, clearing 6-2 « (1.89 meters) at the 101st Annual Millrose Games in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1. Acuff won by posting a mark of 6-3 «.
It was the second time this year Day was a runner-up to Acuff, as she also took second Jan. 21 at Run for the Dream Team USA vs. The World in Fresno at 6-2 _.
Less than a week later, she finished third at the Norwich Union International match in Glasgow, Scotland on Jan. 26, again clearing 6-2 _, the 32nd best jump in the world.
Day says her biggest competition will remain Acuff, who has a record of clearing 2.01 meters.
“She’s a four-time U.S. champion who has one of the best high-jumping résumés possible,” Day said.
But Day, trying to build her own list of accomplishments as a jumper, came in fifth at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston on Feb. 23 with a jump of 5-10 _; Acuff won the event at 6-3 «.
When it comes to handling the pressure of obtaining an “A” standard, Day modestly assesses the difficulty of the jumps.
“I have attempted to jump at that height and had really good attempts,” she said. “I know that I have the height and there are little things like my form I have to clean up so I don’t look at it as pressure. In those situations I do better than most people when there is a big meet like that.”
To prepare in the offseason, Day played soccer for Cal Poly to achieve a training base and a competitive edge, but also to give her the endurance training she needed. Although Day loves the sport, her focal point has been jumping.
Having already established her best starting jumps, Day has done so traveling and being without a coach.
That self-assuredness originated when Day became active in the sport at an early age, and her family has a history of success in track and field as well.
Both her mother and father competed in college in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her mother even made a few U.S. teams and went to the World University Games.
At the age of 7, Day started to compete at county meets but didn’t take it seriously until high school. She started high jumping in middle school, and was coached by her father in her pre-college days.
“It started out as something I was really good at and stuck with,” Day said. “It’s just really fun to realize my potential and ability to do well. It’s fun to jump high and have ability to jump that high over something by using your own abilities.”
Despite how far she’s come already, Day remains driven as ever.
“The chance to be able to go to the Olympics and say I have achieved something that not a lot of people could say they have done is amazing,” she said.