July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

College sports: Florida’s Burke takes seventh in high jump

It wasn’t the best performance of Taylor Burke’s collegiate career, but it’s one she won’t soon forget.

The University of Florida junior placed seventh in the high jump at the NCAA Division I Championships Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center to earn All-America accolades for the first time and help the Gators take third.

“I was definitely excited, and it was just great to place and help the team get points,” Burke said. “It’s my first time (being an All-American) and there’s definitely room to improve, so I’m going to use it as motivation for myself.”

After breaking the school record twice coming into nationals, Burke recorded 5 feet, 11¼ inches to earn the elusive spot on the podium after placing in the top 15 in her previous two trips.

She didn’t duplicate the performance she had earlier this month — when she broke the program mark by clearing 6-1½ to take third at the Southeastern Conference Championships — and looked up at the leaderboard with a bittersweet feeling.

“It was special, but I could’ve had a better jump, and it was a little disappointing looking up and seeing that my PR was the same as the winning jump,” said Burke, referring to national champion Leontia Kallenou of Georgia. “There nothing I could put a finger on. I couldn’t pull it together. I was anxious — a good anxious — and I’m usually relaxed. I guess it just came back to bite me.”

It still was a good finish to the indoor season for the 20-year-old, who cleared 6-1 twice this season. The first time was 6-1¼ at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet, with the other being the school-record 6-1½ that helped Florida capture the SEC indoor crown for the third time in five seasons and eighth overall.

The three-time state champion at Medina will look to carry that momentum into the outdoor season, where she will be out to repeat at the SEC champion in the event and get back to the national championships after not qualifying as a sophomore. She placed tied for ninth as a freshman.

“It’s just our coaches,” Burke said of her late-season success. “They have us start tapering at the right time, so it felt so good when I competed. That helped. I’ve had amazing coaching her at Florida, and I think that’s helped me improved into a better jumper.

“I was definitely excited I could help the team (this weekend), but I’m looking to get better.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.