By Chris Easterling
IndeOnline.com staff writer
Posted May 18, 2011
Making the transition from high school to college is never completely smooth for any athlete. For former Massillon Tiger high jumper Jamil Dudley, the transition from Massillon to Lake Erie College has required a little extra effort.
"I just changed up my whole run up to the bar," Dudley said by phone Wednesday. "I'm getting to the bar now without stutter-stepping. That's really increased my height a lot this year."
While it's been a lengthy process to adjust his approach, the payoff has been well worth it for Dudley. He earned a spot in next week's NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships in the high jump.
Dudley heads to the meet, to be held at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, Calif., May 27-29, having posted the best jump of the season among the 15 qualifiers at 2.22 meters, which translates to 7-feet, 3-inches. The next-best jump is a 2.20-meter leap by Western State's Oliver Harsanyi.
"I have the highest mark right now," Dudley said. "I wouldn't say that I am the favorite, because everyone else's mark is close to mine. ... We're all in the same ballpark. Whoever has the best day is going to win."
Of course, Dudley thinks a big reason for his success stems from the technique adjustment he has been going through almost from the time he set foot on the Painesville campus. It's an adjustment that remains a work in progress as he works through his first season of collegiate competition.
"It's been a real long process," Dudley said. "I still have problems with it. It's just being consistent with it. I just have to be open to coaching.
"As soon as I got on campus, I talked to the coaches, and they pointed it out. I didn't really notice it at all while I was in high school. When I come around the curve, I tend to stutter-step a lot. They straightened that out."
The process has forced Dudley, a two-time state placer in the event while at Massillon, to radically overhaul his approach to the bar. Basically, the new approach can be broken down into a few different parts.
The first step requires him to take three long strides, and by step four, he's starting to establish his curve toward the bar. Over steps five and six, he's angling his shoulders away from the bar, then speeding up over steps eight, nine and 10.
The ultimate result is to have his shoulders angled away from the bar by the time he reaches the point of jumping. Yet, that's just the start of the work Dudley said he needs to do in order to maximize his potential.
"We haven't even talked about actually getting over the bar," Dudley said. "Right now, the coaches think it's more important to just get the run down."
The fruits of the labor showed themselves initially during the indoor season. He reached the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships, where he took third with a leap of 7-2 1/4.
Dudley believes the indoor season was the launching point for his outdoor success.
"That was definitely a major learning tool," Dudley said. "Even when I was there, it was a nerve-wracking experience. I was a freshman with the highest mark going in, so I felt more pressure on me to perform. ... Now, I just worry about technique and stuff like that, not rankings."
Still, Dudley admits the time before he competes in California will be spent focusing as much on the mental side of things as it will be on the physical aspects of jumping.
"I just want to be mentally prepared for everything," Dudley said. "I'm going to try not to be overwhelmed."
And, of course, there will be one more thing he will be focused on in California. It's the same thing he's been focused on since getting to Lake Erie College, and it's a reason why he's competing in the championship meet.
"I know if I keep to my technique, I have a good chance," Dudley said. "I think it's a major accomplishment to get there. I'll be happier if I can go out there and perform my best."