Baxter overcomes the odds in Miami

All-American Jimmy Baxter became the No. 1 high jumper in the nation by completing a jump of 7 feet, 4 1/2 inches at the Gatorade Classic in Miami this past weekend.

The high jump started at 9 a.m., and Baxter jumped hours before the rest of the team arrived.

“I was upset because I had never jumped at nine o’clock in the morning before. I was still tired, my knees were stiff, and I was getting over an illness,” Baxter said. “It was kind of windy, and my first two jumps were both very flat.”

Baxter successfully cleared 6 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet, 10 inches. His main competitor, Olympic trials participant David Furman from Florida, uncharacteristically failed to clear 6 feet, 10 inches. When Baxter was set to for his attempt at 7 feet, 4 1/2 inches he was the only one left in the field. He missed his first try and landed his second.

“It was a good feeling because I was sick and still think I had a lot left in me, afterward,” said Baxter.

This is the best mark of the season in collegiate track and will secure Baxter a trip to the NCAA Championship. With his jump on Saturday, Baxter broke his own school record and set the record for the Gatorade Classic.

“He is a bonafide world-class high jumper,” said coach Greg Thiel. “The next goal is for him to be the national champion.”Along with Baxter’s record-setting performance, the rest of the USF track and field team also excelled in Miami. The Bulls took six first-place finishes, four second-place finishes, and two third-place finishes. The six first-place finishes was second only to host team Miami’s eight top finishes.

“It was the kind of meet we have been waiting for all year, especially from the younger kids,” said Thiel. “There were a lot of really good performances across the board.”

Carmen Crespo set a school record in the high jump successfully clearing 5 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Betsy Matson and Kristina West finished tied for first place (3.55m) and tied the school record in the pole vault. Chandra Brewer finished third in the shot put (15.54) hitting a NCAA qualifying mark and breaking her school record. Dayana Octavien finished second in the discus throw (45.15).

Tara Quinn (9:42.42), Kristy Fuller (10:03.41), Christa Benton (10:10.76) and Tiffany Quinn (10:12.48) dominated the 3,000 meters, as they took four of the five top finishes. In her first attempt of the season in the 400-meter hurdles, Bente General finished second, the fourth best time in school history. Cori Kill finished fourth in the 1,500 meters.

The women sprinters and hurdlers continue to improve as Kimaiya Taylor finished 11th in the 100-meter dash and 12th in the 100-meter hurdles. Austrea Wilkins and Alishia Williams finished 11th and 19th, respectively, in the 100-meter hurdles.

“The young hurdler girls and sprinter girls all ran well. They really stepped it up this week and did a great job,” said Thiel.On the men’s side, Russ Gerbers finished first in the 3,000 meters, while Robert Fennel took first-place finishes in both the shot put and the discus. Adam Chumbley and Doug Brown finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in the 3,000 meters.

Andrew Smith finished fifth in the 1,500 meters, and Jim Vitale finished seventh.

The Bulls will stay at home this week, as they will host a meet at USF Track and Field Stadium on Saturday.

James Tai covers outdoor track and field and can be reached at