Defying gravity is a normal occurrence for pro long jumper Brittney Reese, recently flying to a career best of 7.19 meters (23 feet, 7-1/4 inches) to gain her fourth-straight USA national women’s long jump title at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on June 26,2011.
Reese made her mark with only two out of six legal jumps in the competition. Each competitor has a set number of attempts, usually consisting of three trial jumps and three additional jumps being awarded to the best eight or nine competitors, depending on the track facility. Reese’s opening jump landed her at 7.02 meters, and her sixth and final round came in at an astounding 7.19 meter effort, earning her the world’s furthest mark since 2007.
The world and indoor reigning champion felt she had accomplished something special on her sixth-round jump. “I knew that I had done better on my landing than I normally do,” Reese said. “I was very surprised how far it was. I knew that I had that kind of jump in me. To get it here…was really emotional.”
With her victory, Reese earned a spot on Team USA for the 2011 IAAF World Championships, held August 27–September 4, 2001, in Daegu, South Korea.
Running since she was in the seventh grade, Reese realized just how fast she was when she started beating all her friends in races around her old neighborhood in Gulfport, Mississippi. She says her athletic talent comes from her uncles, who were big basketball players in college. Basketball loomed so large in Reese’s mind that it prompted her to quit track and field for two years from 2005 to 2006 to concentrate on basketball.
“I always liked basketball,” Reese said. “My friends were doing it, and I decided to go for it. I played for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. In my second year I made the all-star team, and I was leading the team in points and rebounds. But I wasn’t getting the attention of big-name schools for scholarships in basketball, and I knew education was my #1 priority, and that’s why I went back to track.”
The jumping layups, discipline and workouts from basketball actually kept Reese in good shape for the long jump as she made her way back to the sport, which she has since come to dominate. In a remarkably short period of time, she won the NCAA Outdoor Championship in 2007 and 2008 and set a personal best of 6.95 meters (22 feet, 9.75 inches) in July 2008 in Eugene at the U.S. Olympic Trials to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
At the Olympics, Reese had the best qualifying jump at 6.87 meters but ended up in fifth place in the final, with a jump of 6.76 meters. Disappointed with the loss, but knowing she had gained tremendous experience and was getting more seasoned and constantly improving, she came back even stronger.
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On May 24, 2009, in Belém, Brazil, she destroyed the field with a personal best of 7.06 meters, which was the third-longest jump ever by an American woman, just behind Marion Jones and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. At the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany, Reese won the title with a 7.10 meter jump, beating defending champion Tatyana Lebedeva and making Reese, at age 23, the third-youngest world champion in the history of the event.
And back she came again at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships, where she continued her consistent efforts with a gold medal jump of 6.70 meters.
“I’m surprised by how far I’ve come,” Reese said. “I didn’t think I’d be jumping 23 feet in my second year as a professional. Hopefully I’ll keep getting better each year—I hope 24 feet will be right around the corner, which is my ultimate goal—to beat the American record of 7.49 meters (24 feet, 6-7/8 inches) laid down by Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1994.”
There is a lot of technique to jumping, and Reese shared what she feels she needs to concentrate on. “Working on getting more explosive off of the board and getting my feet down on the board quicker will give me that edge that I need to stay on top. Improving on my landings can give me an extra 1 to 2 inches as well.
“Training and nutrition has been a big deal in my success,” Reese continued. “With Energy 28® in combination with the Organic Life Vitamins®, I have noticed that I have more energy and feel more awake. I actually feel more explosive as a result and am able to do longer training sessions, which has added to my strength and stamina. Doing repeats [repetitive drills] I am able to recover quicker between each and so can do more reps. I feel more energized both in training and during competition.”
When asked what it’s like to jump 7 meters for the first time, Reese said, “It’s been a goal of mine for a while, and when I first jumped it, I couldn’t believe it. Then the second time I jumped it, it was like, I’m on a roll.”
Reese is on a roll, and her next stop is the World Championships in Daegu.