March 14, 2014. Nicole Greene was eating dinner at her hotel in New York. The next day the two-time high jump state champion from Ponte Vedra High School in Florida was set to compete at the New Balance Nationals Indoor Championship in the famed Armory Track & Field Center. However, while sitting at the table she decided to look at the results from the days events and was shocked to see the high jump had already taken place.
"My mom and I were looking at the wrong schedule so we thought the high jump was Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night. So as my plane is landing, the girls are already competing. I cried my eyes out because I missed it. I definitely want to win this year to redeem myself."
Greene was third at the 3A state meet as a junior and finished the year with an 8th place showing at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in May. Since Florida doesn't have an official indoor season Greene logged some travel miles making two trips up to North Carolina with her Jacksonville Athletic Club teammates. In her first ever indoor meet, the NC Runners Holiday Invitational, the senior tied a new personal best mark of 5'10" to close out 2014. Greene wasn't finished making her climb up the all-time Florida high jump ranks. One month later she returned to North Carolina to compete at the Eastern High School Challenge in Chapel Hill. A Tarheel signee, Greene posted a US#1 mark of 6'0"on her first attempt, only the fourth girl to ever clear that mark in Florida history. Coach Eli Sunqust says it was really nice of her to jump 6'0" in only her second meet of the year.
"It has been a goal of hers for a while, so to be able to not only do it so early, but also jump that on her 1st attempt with no competition at all was a huge confidence boost. She had been training very hard all fall and winter, so it wasn't a surprise to either of us."
While most of the nation is wrapping up their indoor seasons, Greene has already started outdoor. She has been focusing on her short approach runs with the bar, and with a higher bar (in the 6'3" - 6'8" range with a ramp). Coach Sunquist says the goal of these workouts is to improve the consistency of her approach and her take off.
"Recently we have been working on her speed over 20 and 30 meters, and getting more comfortable with all three jump approaches. She is still very new to both horizontal jumps and when I first started working with her last year we completely changed her high jump approach. So we continue to rehearse her approaches regularly so they become even more automatic during competitions."
This weekend, Greene comes in as the favorite for New Balance Nationals Indoor, a meet she missed a year ago. She's excited to be able to jump in an environment free from the elements. No rain, wind, heat, or cool temperatures will effect her. The preparation starts two nights before with an ice bath, followed by lots of stretching the night before, and a walk through of the Armory hours before competing.
"To mentally prepare for a meet I usually pray. I also have to have a colorful piece of tape to my measure my marks. It's usually pink and will be that color this weekend! I feel like there is pressure being the top seed, but I need to stay calm and enjoy the experience."
Greene adds she is at her best when she is relaxed. Sunquist believes the key to her jumping abilities lies in her size. "First of all, she is such a strong jumper because she has been blessed with the size and elasticity of a great jumper. Her reactive strength levels are extremely high, so it was an easy fit for her to be very successful. Secondly, she is so successful due to her very focused attitude. She is extremely driven and always wants to jump higher (and as of recently, farther). The two discuss how she feels each day, never trying to do too much in practice. Sunquist adds that the youngster realizes the big picture, and what it takes to be the best at an elite level. So what would Greene, who will also compete in the long jump this weekend, consider a success?
"A successful weekend would be a jump of 6'0 and a long jump of 19'0. I plan to treat meet this meet like any other meet, just another day it the office."
Sunquist takes it one step further. "For the high jump the goal is to win, and PR again."
A win would mark the first national championship ever for Greene in the final indoor meet of her career. It's a feat she's been hungry for ever since missing the mark a year ago.