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Copeland earns USA Championships spot

After winning a national championship during the indoor track season, anything less, even finishing second in the nation, for St. Augustine’s high jumper Chris Copeland would seem to a disappointment.

Given how the high jump competition at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field National Championships played out last Saturday, and given what Copeland accomplished, finishing second was something to be proud of.

“Of course you’d always like to come out with the win, but to get a personal best at a national meet is great, so it was a blessing and I couldn’t ask for more,” Copeland said.

Three months ago, a jump clearing 7-feet-0.5 won the Div. II indoor championship for Copeland, a former state champion at Lakeland who’s now a sophomore at St. Augustine’s.

Saturday in Charlotte, Copeland’s new personal record, 7-feet-2.25, matched Hoova Taylor of Virginia State.

“We’re something of rivals. We’re in the same conference, the CIAA,” Copeland said. Copeland said he and Taylor have traded victories over each other.

This time around, both cleared 7-feet-2.25, but neither could get the next height, 7-feet-3.5.

Deciding the title went to a jump-off. Each athlete gets one shot at a height. If both miss, the bar is lowered until there’s one miss and one make.

With the bar at 7-feet-1, rain started to fall. Copeland admits the slick track surface hurt his style of jumping.

“I plant off my heel and I wasn’t getting a good plant on the track,” Copeland said. At 7-feet-1, Copeland slipped on his attempt and hit the mat, making his attempt count.

Copeland’s runner-up finish was still good enough to put him in the top 30 high jumpers in the country this year, college or professional, qualifying him for the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships later this month.

“It means a lot because last year at this point, I had had a bad year, it wasn’t where I wanted to finish,” said Copeland, who still made the USA Junior National Championships over the summer.

Making the senior-level national meet is a huge difference. Improving on his freshman season at St. Augustine’s, and how he’s done so, are serious lessons to learn along the way.

“I have to say it’s been about dedication and perseverance,” Copeland said. “For a while, I went through a time where I was sort of sick of track, but now I know what’s best for me to do. I became dedicated again, with hard work and in the weight room. My coaches, I listened to them more than I did last year. I thank them because they’ve had patience with me.”

The USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are June 25-27 in Des Moines, Ia. Copeland spent a week back in Suffolk resting, at least a little bit. He’s headed back to St. Augustine’s, in Raleigh, N.C., to work with his college coaches in the weeks leading up to the USA Championships.

“Actually, it’s better with no classes. I basically get up and practice, go to the weight room, you get to pretty much eat and sleep track,” Copeland said.

“It’ll be icing on the cake to a good year. I’ll have the chance to get my name out there, which is really important for someone aspiring to go pro one day,” Copeland said.