Clarissa Cutliff, a Florida International University junior, will once again compete in the high jump at the Division One NCAA Championships this weekend. Though she is now an experienced collegiate athlete with three years of growth and development under her belt, she once was a high schooler learning how to jump on her own. With no event coach at Edgewater High School in Orlando, Clarissa still pulled off three state championships and two state runner-up titles.
"In high school, I would run up to the mat and jump. No mark, no technique. Just jumping. Attending FIU allowed me to be able to learn about the techniques and skill that are essential to being a better high jumper. Having a coach that's in tune with my specific event pushes me to focus on the little things that can ultimately turn into a more successful jump. It feels great to be able to learn and produce."
Last year, Clarissa finished 12th at NCAA's, a Second Team All American accolade. This year, she heads into the championships with the 13th seed, but knows that being a returner at this meet will give her a leg up: "Since last year, I learned to trust the work that I put in at practice. That was my first outdoor nationals championship. This is my second, so this time around I will be a little more comfortable executing."
Even though she talks about her high ambition heading into this year's championships, she does not set goals on specific marks. Instead, she's focused on the bigger picture: placing in the top three in her event: "Honestly, I don't set goals on specific marks. Of course I want to beat everyone out there! My ambition is high. But my main goal is to clear the jumps on my first attempt. Once I do that multiple times, I will be comfortable. I'm capable of placing top 3. It's just dependent on having a good jump day."
Clarissa will be competing on Saturday at 3pm, PST.