The last few weeks of Emily Gerard’s high school track career were a roller coaster of emotions. From thinking her prep career was done to winning a state title, the Catalina Foothills High School graduate went through it all.
Gerard’s journey ended on a miss. Not hers, but a miss by Cactus’ Megan Schiffmacher. Gerard and Schiffmacher each cleared 5, feet, 06 inches without a miss and neither cleared 5 feet, 08 inches, so the high jump came down to a jump-off during the competition held in May.
Gerard made her final attempt, Schiffmacher did not and Gerard became the 2014 Division II High Jump champion.
“When the girl (Schiffmacher) took her final jump and she wasn’t able to clear I can’t explain the feeling I had,” Gerard explained. “Honestly I was completely shocked because I had won state again despite my injury. She had put up a good fight and the title had been up in the air for awhile so it just came down to each singular jump and who could dig deep.”
Her coach Michael Smith knew her knee was hurting and she was getting tired, but was proud that she was still battling.
“She was jumping her butt off,” Smith said. “I knew her knee was hurting, but she kept going. She really wanted it.”
Gerard competed in three events, also taking sixth in the triple jump and fifth in long jump. She was also instrumental in helping the Falcon girls win the Division II team state title.
Before state competition, Gerard had hurt her knee at the Southern Arizona championships competing in the triple jump and her status for the state meet was in doubt. She was on crutches most of the next two weeks and could hardly train or practice. Even when she could run or jump, she did so with a lot of pain.
“I was walking on crutches unable to practice or train,” Gerard explained. “It was really hard the first few days and I couldn’t help but think my high school track career had been cut short. Luckily all of my friends and coaches were positive encouragement and all believed that I would make a recovery in time for state or I think I would have been too unsure of myself to actually compete.”
Gerard worked hard with Foothills’ trainer Nancy Simmons and once they realized there was a chance to compete, the two worked to get her ready.
“We just hoped for the best and began physical therapy,” said Gerard. “The next two weeks consisted of exercises and ice to help speed up the recovery but I wasn’t able to actually run or jump at all until the few days before state so I was not only injured physically I was also a nervous wreck internally. The doubts worsened as my knee only slowly recovered and the pain never really completely subdued.”
It was during those times of doubt and hard work that Gerard realized how bad she wanted to win another state title. She knew what it felt like, winning the title her sophomore year.
“I was really determined to get it again this year,” Gerard said. “I had my doubts going in due to my injury but I knew deep down inside that I really wanted the title more than anything so I pushed through and gave it my all.”
Gerard’s journey began in middle school. Naturally athletic and a runner, Gerard gravitated to track and field and tried every event she could. She initially struggled with the high jump, but both she and the coaches noticed a potential there. Even with unusual form she rapidly improved and by the end of middle school she was focused on the sport. That focus continued into high school where she was instantly one of the state’s best in the event.
She finished third her freshman year, just four inches behind co-state champions Kinsey Minter and fellow Falcon Shakayla McEaddy.
Her career will continue past high school. Gerard will high jump next year for the University of Arizona track team, something she is very much looking forward to.
“I will start reaching new heights, literally, and with more intensive coaching I think I will start to clean up my form and become an even better athlete,” she explained.
She will look back fondly on high school and her track career. While she looks forward to college and beyond, she went out a winner, overcoming adversity to do so. In reality she is four inches away from four state titles, and overcame the injury to secure her second.