Track and field senior overcomes fear, breaks record
SF State record-breaking high jumper Tiana Wills is one of the best in the nation — with a fear of her own sport.
“I’m afraid of heights,” Wills admitted. “So I don’t like to know what height I’m jumping at. The less I know the more I won’t be scared.”
Senior Wills leaped with the pros as one of the top high-jumpers in the country at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, NM Feb. 23.
Six athletes competed in the high jump over the weekend, three of which are unattached to any college and train year round as professional athletes, while the other three, including Wills, represented their schools Sunday. Wills was there competing against the best in the USA, with the semi-pros.
“Right when I had to jump, I started shaking and sweating. I kept thinking, ‘Get it together,’” she said. “When I was running, it felt like someone was literally pulling my legs down.” She missed her first jump.
So she started dancing, her normal routine before any meet to calm her nerves. She made it over for her second try.
Wills placed second out of the six female athletes, with a mark of 6’2”, a new personal and school record. She finished a close second to Inika McPherson, who cleared 6’3.25” to win. She narrowly missed qualifying for Team USA who will represent the U.S. in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Indoor Championships held in Sopot, Poland March 7 to 9.
“I was really excited that I made it in the top three,” she said. “I didn’t even think it was possible because they jump so high, but in high jump anything can happen.”
Moris Lozovatskiy, volunteer coach for over 20 years at SF State, has trained one-on-one with Wills for nearly two years since she transferred as a junior.
“When she first came to me in practice, I knew she could jump higher and higher,” Lozovatskiy said. “She started jumping at 5’6” and now she’s doing 6’2”. Believe me, if she practices enough, she should be able to do 6’4”, even 6’6”, in the future.”
SF State’s interim head coach Tom Lyons was also shocked at how quickly she has improved, “It’s amazing and (Wills) has done fantastic. Two weeks in a row she’s jumped higher than she’s ever jumped and at the USA champs on television even.”
Senior teammate Maya Cabiness has competed alongside Wills since her first days as a Gator.
“She started off as a good athlete, but over these last couple of years she’s become one of the best in the nation,” Cabiness said. “There’s not a lot of veterans like us on the team, so it’s really cool to see your teammates grow up over the years and change into great athletes.”
The graduating senior will conclude her SF State track and field career at the NCAA II National Indoor Track and Field Championships March 14 in Winston-Salem, NC.
Wills said she doesn’t know what the future has in store for her, but hopes it includes professional high jump in the years to come.
“The head coach at Chula Vista training camp in San Diego wants me to come down in March to work out with his team for a few days,” Wills said. “It’s a start, and I can take it from there. It’s all happening so fast.”