Road to State interview: Woodruff high jumper Kaitlin Brown

Woodruff senior high jumper Kaitlin Brown talks about her final meet as she prepares for the future at Wofford.

Brown finished first in the Class AA Upper State high jump with a best height of 5-2 and this will be her third consecutive year competing in the high jump at the state meet. Brown competed for Woodruff for six years and holds the school high jump record (5-3).

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Full name:  Kaitlin Brown
Date of birth: Jan. 13, 1992
Hobbies:  competitive dance, cheerleading, track and field
Brothers/sisters:  Zach, 25; Miranda, 23
Academic interests:  Biology
Personal records: 5'3" in high jump; 16'1" in long jump

scrunners: When did you start to get involved in track and field?
brown: I started my seventh grade year. My two older siblings were members of the track team.

scrunners: Do you remember your first meet, please explain?
brown: The one thing I remember about my first meet is that I ran the long distance events - 1600, 3200, 4x800 and 4x400. Even as a seventh grader, a lot was expected of me since, at the time, I was a cross country runner as well.

scrunners: Do you play any other sports?
brown: I am involved with competitive cheerleading and varsity cheerleading.

scrunners: What made you decide to get into track and field?
brown: My older siblings ran track throughout their high school career.  I looked up to them and decided as a seventh grader to follow  their footsteps.

scrunners: Do you or did you have any family members participate in the sport? 
brown: Zach was a sprinter while Miranda was a long distance runner and a hurdler.

scrunners: What did you think of Saturday at the Upper State qualifier?
brown: I went to Upper State ranked low in high jump, my main event, because of my qualifying jump at Region 2-2A of 4'10."  I was not seen as an immediate threat - four girls were ranked above me.  However, I ended up winning the high jump with a jump of 5'2."  My coach, Stanley Staggs, was ecstatic.  Now I just have to bring that jump to state.

scrunners: How do you feel this has prepared for state?
brown: It's an achievement every year to advance to state.  I thrive with competition and Upper State only boosted my confidence in my ability.  I need 5'4" this weekend to pose a threat to the Lower State champion (Shaquilla Mitchell (Ridgeland - 5'4")).

scrunners: Do you have any specific goals for state?
brown: I have the same goal for state as I have all year:  Never walk away from the mat knowing you could have jumped higher.  I do REALLY want to end my senior season clearing 5'4" though.

scrunners: When did you set Woodruff's high jump record?
brown: Last year I broke the school's record at a home track meet with a jump of 5'3."

scrunners: What does it mean to have the record?
brown: When you break a record at Woodruff, your name goes onto a plaque hung the gym wall.  By holding the record, I became a part of a legacy of great athletes that are visible on the walls of the gym today.

scrunners: What would you think if the record is broken?
brown: If my record were broken, I would have to shake the young lady's hand that broke it because she achieved something I couldn't.  However, I would wish I had the chance to try to win the record back.

scrunners: What made you decide to attend Wofford next year? 
brown: I chose Wofford based on their academics.  It is a fantastic school for pre-med majors.  I chose to run track for the Terriers simply because I did not want to give the sport up. I love it too much.

scrunners: Over the years, how you have seen yourself and the sport progress?
brown: I've evolved as a track athlete.  I began my career as purely a distance runner.  The 1600 was my favorite event, but I also ran the 3200, 4x800 relay, and the 4x400 relay.  Now, I am a completely different athlete.  I haven't run any event that was longer than 400 in over two years.  I've moved from distance events to jumping events - 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, high jump, and long jump (even tried the triple jump a few times).  Track and field has become more competitive since I first began running.  Athletes are more specialized and train harder and longer!

scrunners: Being with your coach for the past six years, what will you remember the most about him and the team?
brown: I first had Brian White as a cross country coach starting in the seventh grade.  He is a wonderful motivator and friend. I'll ALWAYS remember how he helped me begin competing in the events I love today. He always says, "Hey, just try it. Just see what you can do." If it weren't for that motivation, I would have never found the high jump.

Stanley Staggs, my high jump coach, has learned to live with my stubbornness.  I am a very hard athlete to coach and he has accepted that fully! :) He knows exactly how to coach me - doesn't say too much, doesn't say too little, breaks it down and realizes that I overanalyze everything.  He has always been there to help me through obstacles, like when the bar starts inching above 5'1."

Track teams are one-of-a-kind.  Yes, track is composed of individual events, but for Woodruff we act as one.  As cliché as that probably sounded, my teammates realize what is at stake every time they step up to the start line.  They not only strive for excellence for their personal record, but to aid in the overall team record as well.    

scrunners: What experience did you collect from previous state meets that will help you this year?
brown: At previous meets, I was SO nervous.  My hands were shaking and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest.  Then, 5' was a challenge to clear and I was not near as confident in my capabilities as I now am. This year, I just hope to "tune out" the competition and compete against myself. Win or lose, I just want to know that I did my best.

scrunners: What kind of challenges have you encountered as an athlete?
brown: Thankfully, I've never suffered any serious physical injuries to hinder me from participating in track. The only challenges I have really faced are the ones between the bar and me - it always seems to want to fall down while I'm praying it stays where it is :).

scrunners: Did you think you would be doing what you are doing now?
brown: Never did I imagine I would be ranked so high in the state championships and never did I expect to be an upcoming college athlete.  A lot of people are expecting me to do well and I hope I will not let them down.

scrunners: How do you balance athletic and other responsibilities?
brown: I have always been an athlete.  I was raised in midget league cheerleading, soccer, dance, cross country, and track.  I have always been expected to keep my grades up and to excel both on the field and in the classroom.  Balancing athletic and other responsibilities doesn't seem like such a big deal when you've always done it.

scrunners: What keeps you motivated on a daily basis?
brown: My coaches. I never want to feel like I've let them down. They give up so much time, away from their families and lives, just to assist us in achieving our goals.

My family. They have been to every athletic event I've ever participated in.  They're my biggest fans.

scrunners: Do you have a pre-meet tradition?
brown: I don't really have any pre-meet traditions, but some of my teammates do find it funny that I always have to do the same preparation before every jump. It consists of rocking back and forth, going up on my toes, taking one last good breath to calm down and taking a final look at the bar before I begin my run.

scrunners: Which event do you prefer?
brown: High jump because for some reason, it came naturally to me.  I was hooked after my first practice.

scrunners: How do you prepare for each event going into a meet and on day of a meet?
brown: Honestly, I try not to think of the meet until I have to. I don't like looking up statistics or knowing what heights or lengths the girls around me jump.  I just want to go into the meet with a clear mind so I'm able to focus on what I can do.

scrunners: Do you see yourself coming back in the future to be a coach?
brown: I would LOVE to coach.  Wofford isn't too far from Woodruff so I can see myself coming to a few practices and meets to help out.
scrunners: What do you look for in a coach and what do you expect a coach to look for in you?
brown: My relationships with my coaches are built on trust.  They trust me to try my best and I trust them when they give me advice on how to get better.  In a coach, I look for trust, knowledge, and perseverance (because I know I'm stubborn!).  I expect a coach to look for the willingness to learn, the want to do well, sportsmanship, and the drive and motivation in me.

scrunners: What do you recommend to younger athletes to achieve their best?
brown: Cliché as it is, always TRY.  I never would have known I could clear a hurdle or jump in long jump or in high jump if I had not tried the event.

scrunners: If there is one thing in the world you could do it and why?
brown: I have learned so many lessons from my coaches.  Lessons about how hard work pays off, lessons of perseverance, lessons of sportsmanship.... I would love to return the favor one day and coach so I can instill such lessons in kids.