Chaunte Lowe, American record holder and sure to be some of Toni's stiffest competition. (Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE)
Oklahoma State women's basketball player Toni Young might be more comfortable on the court than when she takes the 10-step approach toward the high jump pole at the fabled Hayward Field infield in Eugene, Ore., today at 5:00 p.m.
But comfort aside, Young will be ready. And nervous, as she attempts to become an Olympian just a few months removed from the basketball season.
"I'm really nervous because a lot of people I'm jumping against have been jumping forever and I've been jumping two months maybe," she said of the 23-woman field that includes American record-holder Chaunte Lowe. "Being one of the competitors - I'm really excited to be able to make it, but I'm super nervous."
Despite picking up her track career after a three-year hiatus, her jumping ability - on the court by the rim and on the track by the high jump pole - has been well-known by fans and coaches alike for quite some time.
"The (track) coaches had seen me jump in high school. They all knew about me and I've been wanting to jump for the last two years. It's just basketball has been taking over," said Young the day before heading to Oregon. "School and juggling two sports is really hard, but I actually kind of had to buckle down and really cut out a lot to come out and do track. From waking up early in the morning to do track practice and then going to basketball and getting class done, it's been really hard, but [my coaches] help me keep it all balanced."
She's not only just been balancing life as a two-sport star in Stillwater, but balancing her body mid-air for that perfect jump that will bring her the results she wants - a trip to London this summer.
"Not very people can say that," Young said of being able to vie for the chance to call herself an Olympian. "It only happens every four years so being able to be on that team and be so young and not have very much experience - it would be exciting."
You can see her sky for rebounds and dunk in the layup line, but what about high jumping? How does she contort her body in such a way to be able to go over a bar higher than she stands tall and clear it with relative ease? Like with all athletic feats, it all starts with practice.
"Practice is long. A lot of people think you don't do much for high jump but you come out here and get sore too and bust out a sweat," she said with a laugh before describing what she does on a daily basis with the help of OSU track's "Coach Z" (Zivile Pukstiene) - from warmups to run throughs of her new 10-step approach, to working on her form in one-on-one sessions with Pukstiene. And then she says it's ... easy.
"It's like doing a bridge. You know, when you were a little kid and you do little back bridges, it's pretty much the same thing just in the air."
Yeah. Piece of cake - at least for her.
But don't expect her to hang up her high tops for her track spikes any time soon.
"I really prefer basketball. I'm more of a team sport person and this is fun and competitive but basketball is just something more." Of course this doesn't mean she's not competing to reign victorious, however.
"I want to go out and win. I hate losing and when I do lose it hurts." Let's hope that tonight after jumping over the pole, she'll get to jump in joy at being one of 12 to advance to the finals and become one step closer to a trip across the pond.
Sounds like a fun summer break before starting her senior year for the Cowgirl basketball team, eh?