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UA’s Patterson aiming high

Citizen Staff Writer
The Bounce



No telling how high Elizabeth Patterson can sail once she gets all the necessary components down.

Her coach at the University of Arizona, Sheldon Blockberger, said it will be “dangerously high.”

Patterson, a junior, won the NCAA high jump outdoors championship last year with a mark of 6 feet, 2 inches, and this winter set a school indoor record of 6-4 3/4.

Who would think this easygoing girl with the infectious smile could break the laws of gravity like that?

Well, Blockberger did. He took the UA assistant’s job four years ago but the problem was that he had no jumpers.

He got on the Internet and Patterson of Rowlett, Texas, was one of the best hits. It took one visit and the casual University of Arizona campus worked its magic.

She wanted to get out of Dodge, so to speak.

“It was Arizona or Texas Tech and I wanted to get away,” Patterson said.

She was a nice surprise when she reported, literally leaping with potential.

“Great body type for the high jump, long legs,” said Blockberger.

“The trouble was in high school she’d sit and drink a Slurpee and then go jump,” he said. “I had to crack the whip.”

As a frosh, Patterson leaped a personal high of 5 feet 11 on her first try of the indoor season, but things became more difficult.

“She had rested all of the Christmas vacation before, and that’s why she did that height,” Blockberger said. “She never got close to that the rest of the year. Jumpers with half her talent were outjumping her.”

The “whip” was in the form of the weight room, video room, crying room, anything to make her improve with the “Fosbury Flop” (today’s technical style).

“I didn’t know much about it,” Patterson said. “I didn’t know anything about the technical part.”

She soon discovered she really liked the high jump and more importantly, she liked to work at it.

“I made six feet right away my sophomore year,” she said, imparting her secret: “I do what (Blockberger) tells me to do.”

Last month at the NCAA Indoor Championships, she lost a duel to Destinee Hooker of Texas for the national title.

The latter succeeded at 6-6 after both had cleared the 6-4 3/4 mark. Patterson believes in spite of the loss, she now has the confidence edge that will help her.

“You don’t really get over the nerves when you jump, but having them can make you do better,” she said. “(It can be) the difference in making your back or butt or (leg) clear the bar.”

In the meantime, she’s all ears.

“She’ll do 6-6 or 6-7. She is very strong and fast and is building her approach, steps and (push) on that,” Blockberger said. “She is the kind of athlete you have to get on . . . tends to be kind of lazy, but the kind who responds.”

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