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Anderson fights through lows to excel at high jump

Courtney Anderson knew she was a talented track athlete when she first attempted the high jump in seventh grade. 

After she found quick success with the high jump, she honed her jumping by practicing with a local high school track team when they would come to her middle school. By the time she moved on to Mariner High School in Cape Coral, she held her middle school high jump record at 4-10.5. 

As Anderson leaves USF, she has laid claim to more school records. The former Bull holds both the indoor and outdoor high jump records for USF. Her outdoor high jump of 6-1.25 at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships was high enough to earn her national runner-up. 

Anderson described the experience of becoming national runner-up as the happiest she’s ever been. But with the success and jubilation of placing second at the biggest collegiate stage come the expectations and pressure of living up to that jump. 

At the beginning of her senior season Anderson struggled with injuries and poor performance. Only six months removed from her success at the championships, Anderson’s jumps were already starting to decline drastically. 

“I just went into track this year expecting to be as good as I was last year,” Anderson said. “I didn’t get the training that I had before last year and we didn’t have a coach.” 

Her success didn’t carry over from the previous season as she hoped. Anderson’s lack of training and arthritis in her knee caused her results to drop. The low point for her happened in New Mexico at the NCAA Indoor Championships. 

She was only able to clear 5-6, which is 7.5 inches lower than the USF-record she set in 2013. 

“That was the most depressed time for me in track, for sure,” Anderson said. 

But Anderson used her disappointing finish in New Mexico as a wake-up call. She recovered from her injury and began to take her training more seriously again. 

Arthritis isn’t something that can be completely cured, but during the season she learned how to manage it with the aid of medication and rehabilitation exercises. Anderson said she is glad she had to work through her weaknesses earlier in the season so she could peak at the perfect time.

Anderson was returning to her record-setting form after tying for third in the NCAA East Preliminaries and qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships again. 

However, two days before she was set to compete, she hurt her knee again in practice. 

“Two days before nationals, I was doing box jumps and I hurt it,” Anderson said. “It crunched a little because it’s bone-on-bone. It was really inflamed.”

After struggling through the arthritis all season, Anderson knew how to manage her knee so she could be ready to compete. She said she uses lubrication shots to ease the pain and swelling, but for big events she said adrenaline takes over for her. 

“When I compete, nothing bothers me,” Anderson said. “I could be hurt, but I won’t feel it. My legs will get tired before I let myself focus on my knee.”

Anderson has had a full season to learn how to handle expectations, pressure and injury. This week, she will look to use this experience to her advantage when she heads to Sacramento, California for the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. 

To participate in the event, a woman has to jump at least 6-0 at any event throughout the season. Anderson cleared 6-0 for the first time this season on her way to placing eighth in the NCAA Championships. 

Even though this event will be her last of the year, Anderson said she is just living in the moment rather than letting the pressure get to her, as it did earlier this season. 

Anderson will get her chance to prove that she is still peaking this week at the USA Championships, which takes place from Wednesday until Saturday.