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Interval Session #110 - Taylor Burke

By Dave Devine - April 9, 2009

Medina OH sophomore leaper Taylor Burke competed in exactly two indoor meets this winter, and both times she set a nation-leading mark in the girls high jump.  At the Akron Rubber City Open in February, Burke scaled 5-10 for a US#1 clearance.  By the time she was competing at the Ohio Indoor State meet a month later, she'd lost the US lead to Tynita Butts (who went 5-10.50 at NSIC), but she soared to reclaim her position atop the list with a 5-11.00 PR.  In the end, she completed the winter at US#2 after Iowan Hannah Willms leapt a state record 6-00.25 on March 25th.

Burke's reason for only competing in two meets during the 2009 indoor season?  She was busy playing varsity basketball for her Medina High team, an undertaking in which she was hailed as the most athletic girls basketball player in Medina County by one local newspaper, and in which she's predicted by many to become the first girls' player in the county to dunk a basketball.  While that goal will have to wait for next b-ball season, one thing that won't wait is Burke's ascension up the national high jump lists.  She was runner-up at Nike Outdoor Nationals last summer, and has every intention of returning this year to climb one step higher on that podium.

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine lands in Ohio for a quick chat with a super soph clearly on the rise.
Photo: Scott Stefka/yourkidsinaction.com

1) Congratulations on twice being the #1-ranked girls' high jumper in the country during indoors.  You managed to claim that distinction for the second time in your final weekend of indoor competition at the Ohio state meet.  Can you talk about that competition, how your heights progressed, and whether you were actively shooting for a US leading mark, or just jumping and trying to win the meet?

The competition at the state indoor meet was exciting for me. I started jumping at an earlier height than I normally do because I had only jumped one meet prior to indoor states, because I had just finished my high school basketball season.  I knew that my first meet of 5-10.00 was a good jump, but felt confident during the indoor state meet once I cleared the 5-10 mark that I was jumping well enough to clear that 5-11.00 mark.  I didn't have any misses until I actually got to 6-0.  I knew that the US mark was a possiblility, but my main focus is always just to win and then concentrate on my own personal record.  It just happened that by creating my own PR I was ending up with the number one jump.  That was a bonus!

2) With your 5-11 and Erik Kynard's 7-04.50, Ohioans claimed both US#1's for indoor high jumping at one point this winter.  Have you gotten to know Erik at all, or happened to be at many of the same competitions in Ohio or elsewhere? Are there any other elite jumpers around the country with whom you've connected or stay in touch during the year?

I haven't met Erik yet, but I'd love to see him jump!  I love it that we are both from Ohio!   I have met some really nice people through track.  Last year, I really looked up to Ruben Belen, who was a senior at Medina High School (when I was a freshman) and now he high jumps at Kent State University.  I also have enjoyed competing with Kelsey Couts from Olentangy.  She's a senior this year and is a great jumper.  Of course, my high jump teammates at Medina are awesome and are like my sisters!

3) Last spring you were 7th at the Ohio outdoor state meet, and then moved all the way up to second at Nike Outdoor Nationals, though the difference in heights was only an inch and-a-half.  Is high jumping just that way sometimes-- a difference of an inch or two can be the difference between 7th at state and second at Nationals?  Is it frustrating sometimes, to have it all hinge on such narrow measurements?  And can you discuss how it felt to make All-American at NON after your finish at the Ohio state meet?

High jump can sometimes be a very "mental" event.  You really have to stay focused every time you jump.  Every 1/4 of an inch can make a difference, and so can misses made during the event. I was disappointed with myself at the state meet, so going into Nike Nationals I really wanted to prove that I could do better.  After the Nike meet I realized that I was an All-American-- I couldn't believe it!

4) You've really blossomed this year, from a very good freshman high jumper to the indoor national leader as a sophomore.  What have been some of the factors in that progression?  Are you more confident this year?  Stronger?  Better technique?  Simply the advantages of being a year older?

This year I am a lot stronger (physically and mentally) and I feel that the ongoing conditioning and cross-training between all of my sports has made a big difference.  Being a year older also helps with my confidence (knowing what to expect at bigger meets).  My technique has improved, thanks to my coaches!

Taylor clears the bar at the 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals  - Photo: Vic Sailer/photorun
5) I read where the Ohio state record for girls in the high jump is held by Christina Estrict of Collinwood at 6-0.  After going 5-11 indoors, that mark has to be in your sights.  If you're comfortable sharing, can you lay out some of your goals for the season ahead and competitions you might be shooting for heading into the summer?  Will we see you trying to move up a spot at NON this year?

My goals for this outdoor season are to contribute to my team by doing my best at high jump and running events.  I also want to finish stronger at the state meet and improve my finish at Nike Outdoor Nationals.  At every meet, I have the state record lurking in the back of my mind.  Records are made to be broken, right?

6) Almost everyone who excels in track and field has an interesting story of how they first became involved in the sport, and the sacrifices and support they've received from coaches and family along the way.  How did you first become interested in the track, and the high jump specifically?  Are there other events you tried first, or other sports you also play (or maybe had to leave behind for track)?  Who are some of the key figures in your coaching and support structure?

Taylor and her mom Julie at NON '08 - Photo: Donna Dye
My mom (left) suggested that I try the high jump in middle school because she was a high jumper when she was in high school.  She actually had her high school record for awhile :)  I've always loved sprinting so that was why I became interested in track.

I had to sacrifice my club soccer team to focus more on track in the spring season. I am still lucky that I am currently the goalie on my  high school soccer team.  I also play varsity basketball for my school.  My high school track coaches, Coach Brewer, Coach Vanfleet, and Coach Jenkins all encourage and support me every day at practice and during meets.   "Coach Brew " is my high jump coach and a great coach and person.  I also work with Mike Caza, at Premier Sports Conditioning, who is a former Canadian Olympic high jumper.  He works with me on strength and conditioning, and also my technique. 

I have so much respect for all of them.  My teammates, my friends and my family are so supportive of me all season.  My phone is always ringing after each meet with my friends wondering how I did.  I love 'em!

7) What's the level of awareness of your accomplishments among friends and other students at your high school?  Does something like US#1 in the high jump make much of an impact in football-crazy Ohio?  Do your friends ever challenge you to jump over strange things (one hurdler we interviewed last year was challenged to hurdle a car), or try to do things like dunk a basketball?

It wasn't much of a secret among the halls of Medina High School, since it was on the marquee on the front lawn of the school.  My teachers and the students have been so supportive of me!  Unfortunately, football seems to dominate, but that doesn't keep me from trying to make high jump and track known around Ohio!  My high school basketball coach is determined to get me to dunk...actually he quoted that I would be the "first girl in our county to dunk a basketball."  No pressure, there!  I'm getting close.  My friends are always challenging me to jump over them!  That's not very easy when one of them happens to be 6'4.  :)

8) Outside of your commitments to track, what things keep you busy in a given week?  Are there other passions or interests which hold equal or greater importance for you?  And when the demands of the track season subside, what are we likely to find you doing for relaxation?

Homework and driving classes are my favorite past-times this year when I'm not at practice.  I get my license soon!  Basketball is my passion, along with soccer and of course high jump.  This summer I plan on going on vacation with family and friends for my 16th birthday!  The beach sounds pretty relaxing, don't you think?.

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