Wake’s Caldwell sets sights on setting school record

Wake’s Caldwell sets sights  on setting school record
April 09
00:00 2015
(Above: Photo by Wake Forest University- Athletics Nyki Caldwell of Wake Forest is the ACC indoor champion in the high jump.)

Nyki Caldwell’s pursuit of clearing 6-feet in the high jump is anything but a pipe dream. At this juncture, she’s only 1½ inches shy of soaring to heights which have never been achieved in women’s track and field at Wake Forest University.

Caldwell, a senior who majors in Health and Exercise Science, closed out the winter season in grand fashion. She jumped 5-feet-10 inches to win her specialty at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in February. As a sophomore two years ago, she was the ACC indoor runner-up.

With that first-place finish, Caldwell became the first Wake Forest woman to win a gold medal in a field event at the conference indoor championships. While the title-clinching jump wasn’t her best ever (PR is 5-feet-10½ inches), it brought Caldwell so much joy and satisfaction to make All-Conference as an ACC champion.

“I was very pleased with the outcome,” Caldwell said. “Things turned out the way I hoped they would. It would’ve been nice to PR. But this was the ACC meet, so what counts more than anything else is that you win.”

Caldwell makes it clear that her ultimate goal is  to set a new Wake Forest standard at 6-feet by the time her college track career ends later this spring. The current school record of 5-feet-11 3/4 inches was set by Trina Bindell in 1996.

“Achieving 6-feet would secure my place in the record books,” said Caldwell, a four-time All-State high jumper in high school (Dexter, Mich.). “I’ll focus a lot on my steps and technique. I’m looking to win at the ACC outdoor meet and qualify for the NCAA Regionals.”

In the high jump, mastering technique is essential. It’s an event which demands precision, speed and strength, much like the athletes who run hurdles.

Jumpers typically take a pre-determined number of strides that will put them at the right take-off point to make a clean jump. If the athlete doesn’t generate enough speed on the run-up approach, he or she may not generate sufficient lift to clear the bar. If they chop their steps on the approach, it will slow momentum and most likely result in a failed attempt.

Determining the proper take-off point is equally important. Taking off too close to the bar, or taking off too far away from the bar, will cause a missed attempt. As jumpers attempt to clear greater heights, technique becomes even more crucial.

“The key is to stay consistent with technique all the way through the jump,” Caldwell said. “But it’s also about spacing. As the bar is raised, you develop a feel for what adjustments to make on where to start your approach and where to start your take-off.”

Tim Sullivan, a Wake Forest assistant coach who specializes in the vertical jumps, has worked with Caldwell over the past three years. There are no doubts in his mind about her capabilities for this outdoor season.

“Physically and mentally, Nyki is in a very good place right now,” he said. “She’s grown by leaps and bounds in her confidence level and her knowledge about training. She knows she can jump higher than what she did at the ACC meet and she’s still hungry. Is jumping 6-feet possible for her? Absolutely. It’s all about Nyki competing and performing to the best of her ability.

“Now that we’re in the outdoor season, we’re in a new training cycle, so we’re building everything towards the championships in May and June. As we get closer to the end of the season, Nyki could be one of the best high jumpers in the country.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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