Jumping to new heights

Published 8:30 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chris Copeland won four state championships in the high jump during his junior and senior years at Lakeland.

Copeland went to St. Augustine’s College with the goal of winning national championships.

“Winning the title was one of my goals maybe during my junior or senior year, but I’ll take it,” Copeland said.

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“The title” is the NCAA Division II National Championship and it came earlier than even Copeland himself was expecting. Copeland, a sophomore for the Falcons, won the title last weekend at the indoor season championships in Albuquerque, N.M. with a personal record high jump of 7-feet-0.5.

Back during his time on the Cavalier track team, Copeland didn’t start as a high jumper until his sophomore year. By the time of the indoor season in his junior year, he was dominant in his event. Copeland went 4-for-4 in state championship meets in 2007 and 2008.

This season, Copeland admits had not been what he wanted it to be before the NCAA Championships. The national title was actually his first first-place finish in a meet this season.

Even the competition in Albuquerque didn’t start well. Copeland missed his first two jumps at his opening height, 6-feet-7.

“From looking at the field of athletes for nationals, I knew I had to exceed seven feet just to be competitive,” Copeland said.

Then after the two early misses, “I knew I had to win off of height cleared,” Copeland said. “So getting a personal best and my first win this season couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Copeland’s best mark topped four jumpers who cleared 6-feet-11.5.

Copeland’s having just as much success away from the track. He’s a Presidential Scholar at St. Augustine’s.

“The track program at St. Aug has allowed me to place academics before athletics. That’s the way it should be. Coach (George) Williams has me looking down the road as far as being a professional career-wise,” Copeland said.

The former Cavalier mentions coach Greg Rountree and Lakeland’s athletic director Teri Tucker in the same way.

“They helped to lay the foundation and I still rely on them for encouragement and support,” Copeland said.

“The next big goal is to get ready for the outdoor season,” Copeland said.

Copeland said winning the NCAA outdoor championship is certainly a goal now. As long as he’s ahead of schedule, he might as well just keep going.