For USF high jumper Courtney Anderson, participating in the high jump competition has been her passion since the seventh grade.
The second of five children, Anderson’s track and field career started when her grade school shop teacher, who was also the track and field coach, invited her to be part of the team.
Anderson said yes.
With the help of her coaches, Anderson quickly fell in love with high jumping. In a way, she said she owes it to her shop teacher who had an eye for talent.
“He noticed I was taller for my age,” Anderson said. “He thought I’d be good at high jump and wanted to teach me.”
But when her family moved to Ft. Myers, Fla. from Ohio the following year, she had to stop when her new school didn’t have a high jump competition.
Instead, she ran track, participating in the long and triple jump as well as sprints.
After eighth grade, Anderson decided to pursue high jumping again during her freshman year at Mariner High School, when one of her friends convinced her to continue track and field.
Once again, outside help proved valuable.
While in high school, Anderson reached the state-level high jump competition throughout her high school career, finishing in third place her freshman year, fourth the next year and second the year after that before winning the Florida 4A title in her senior year with a leap of 5-10 feet.
She also competed in other sports such as volleyball, which she played three years on the varsity team and was named MVP hitter as well as making the News-Press All-Conference First Team all four years.
With these accomplishments, universities such as Brown University and UCLA began to recruit Anderson, but she ignored them to remain close to home, she said. She looked up USF online and filled out the questionnaire. The next day, she received a call from assistant coach Don Marsh.
Anderson decided to remain close to home and go to USF.
“I wanted to go to a big university, but I wanted to be close to my family,” Anderson said. “I just knew I didn’t want to go far.”
During her freshman year at USF, Anderson said she struggled transitioning from high school to college due to her busy schedule. She said she initially struggled on the track as well, jumping from 5-10 feet in high school to 5-6 feet. But with the help of tutors and coaches, Anderson managed her way through her first year.
In the summer before her sophomore year, Anderson pulled her quad muscle while training with one of the throwers. The injury caused her to miss out on summer workouts and the rest of the season.
After getting a medical redshirt, Anderson returned for her junior year, but suffered a setback when she pulled ligaments in her left foot at an indoor meet, causing her to miss most of the season.
Anderson said the injury was the toughest moment of her career.
“Being a high jumper, there’s so much torque you put on your jumping foot that if you jumped the wrong way or if you twerk your foot in anyway, there’s continuous straining,” Anderson said. “I was booted for eight weeks. I wasn’t able to train.”
This year, the 22-year-old redshirt junior majoring in interdisciplinary sciences has made a comeback from her injury, setting a school record, becoming the first female in school history to clear 6-0 at the USF Open last month, exceeding the previous record of 10-5 set by Loutisha Hall in 2008.
She’s currently tied for third in the NCAA and one of seven athletes nationally to clear 6-0 this season.
Assistant coach Lissa Olson said a change in her diet and workouts attributed to her success.
“She works extremely hard in the weight room. She’s become conscientious of her nutrition,” Olson said.“Because she’s stronger and because of the explosive training and because she’s lighter, it helps her technique.”
Olson said Anderson has also improved mentally when it comes to jumping high in a competitive environment.
Anderson and the Bulls go on the road this weekend, traveling to Tallahassee on Friday for the Seminole Invitational.