Hometown hero bound for 2016 Olympics
Jazzelena Black, a graduate of Pacifica High School is breaking and setting records in the long and triple jump titles. Black, a freshman jumper at the University of Sioux Falls, was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Women’s Track Newcomer of the Year.
She runs and leaps like a gazelle, yet has never worked out like other track and field competitors.
At the 2013 edition of the NSIC Indoor Track and Field championships Black hopped, skipped and jumped through the air and one attendee said she just kept going and going-and we wondered if she was ever going to come down. Black had jumped 40 feet, 7.5 inches, more than a foot better than her closest competitors. Consider that the result also broke the NSIC’s previous record of 39-7.25, which had been set by St. Cloud State’s Heather Miller in 2010.
But throughout high school, Black’s long jump and triple jump distances steadily improved. She left Pacifica with four school records (long jump, triple jump, high jump and 4×100 relay) and as a 3-time Ventura County triple jump champion.
She cleared 39 feet, five inches at the 2012 Arcadia Invitational to break the 25-year-old Ventura County triple jump record.
Black’s potential in the horizontal jumps quickly came into focus and she was motivated to stay at the top.
Finding a fit
Black said she had to find the right fit for her. She said she chose to attend USF largely to work with sixth-year horizontal jumps coach Reid Johnson, a former NAIA All-American who qualified for the 2008 U.S. Indoor National Championships.
“Coach Johnson was everything I was looking for in a coach,” Black explained. “I wanted someone that was very experienced and as passionate about the jumps as I am.”
Black was also looking for a change in scenery.
“I’ve lived in California my whole life and wanted to go to college somewhere that I could experience all four seasons,” she added. “It is 60-70 degrees in California all year round.”
The first place that Black had to get acquainted with on the Sioux Falls campus was the weight room. For an athlete that had never so much as sat on a weight bench, the Cougars’ daily lifting sessions took some getting used to.
The long jump takes a combination of speed, strength and technical expertise few athletes are able to pull together.
Reid Ehrisman, director of the Cougars’ track and field and cross-country programs, also offered a wonderful insight into the art of the triple jump.
He revealed: “There is an amazing rhythm to it, and when an athlete gets it right, it doesn’t hurt.”
“You almost don’t feel the ground.”
The key to a great jumping performance is consistency, and that accuracy in the approach begins in the first two to three strides of the approach run-up.
Johnson spent most of the fall tweaking Black’s run-up to ensure that his young ace accelerates as long as possible before going airborne.
“The basics to training for the long jump and triple jump are the same, but the details in the training are completely different,” she said.
Black added, “We work on take-off angles, so that I’m jumping up and out for the long jump and strictly horizontal for the triple.”
“My landing has changed by getting my knees and feet up before I hit the sand so I can travel as far as possible.”
Our 2016 Olympic bound hometown athlete needs our help. An account has been set up in her name at Wells Fargo. Please make deposit in her name to account number: 2855364200.