SE: Williamson Wins National Title, Adds to K-State's High Jump History

The summer is hotter. The winter is not even comparable. For Jamaicans like Kim Williamson who are used to being minutes from a beach and never seeing snow, Kansas can be an uninviting place to move to.

It takes a lot to make the journey worth it.

Williamson, a senior high jumper at Kansas State, has seen her stay in Manhattan pay off and then some. She said the plusses of coming to K-State — “the people,” head coach Cliff Rovelto and the support of the athletic department — outweigh the sometimes-woeful weather.

“I am grateful for Kansas State. They have given me a lot of opportunities,” she said. “First, to get a degree, which I probably couldn’t afford coming to the U.S., and they’ve helped me through that, and the support throughout the athletic department is incredible.”

Under the tutelage of Rovelto, Williamson brought home the program’s lone title from the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on June 11. The senior cleared 6-2 on her first attempt and watched as her final competitor missed three times to seal the first NCAA title of Williamson’s career.

“It was a great experience,” Williamson said. “It’s awesome being the national champion in the high jump in my last outdoor season. It was an amazing feeling.”

Williamson had been painstakingly close to winning a title before, only adding to the joy of finally breaking through.

In the 2014 Outdoor Championships, she finished second on misses despite a personal record clearance of 6-2.75. In this year’s Indoor Championships, she placed third at 6-00.5, while teammate Akela Jones won at 6-01.5. Before coming to K-State, Williamson, attending Central Arizona College at the time, claimed the runner-up spot in the NJCAA Outdoor Championships.

“Knowing that I was so, so close last year and lost it by (misses), coming back this year and winning it was even better,” said Williamson, who holds the NJCAA record and the Jamaican junior national record in her event. She’s also the first K-State women’s high jumper to win a national title since Rita Graves in 1986.

Considering Williamson started high jumping in high school “for the fun” of it, her rate of progress has been staggering. To get serious about the sport, she only needed to see the places it could take her.

“I saw most of my (high school) teammates representing the country and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’ So I started being more dedicated, going to practice every day,” she said. “Then in 2009, there was the World Youth Championships in Italy. I realized then that doing track and doing it well, I’d be able to go to all these places that I probably couldn’t afford to go otherwise. So I started focusing more on jumping well. It started from there for me.”

Before Williamson was leaping at an elite level, K-State assistant coach Vincent Johnson made a connection in Jamaica. Once Johnson pitched Rovelto’s track record with high jumpers, which has included a number of national champions and Olympians, she was sold on K-State.

“Coach Rovelto, for me, is the reason I am here; that was enough motivation,” she said. “I want to get good at what I do, and he is the way to that.”

Williamson’s abilities have certainly risen at K-State. She cleared 6-0 or higher six times in her final outdoor season, winning the Big 12 title with a season-best mark of 6-1.5 before topping it at the NCAA Championships.

“I got a lot faster coming here because (Rovelto) has a lot of running in his workouts and a lot of weight training, which has helped me get a lot stronger than I was,” Williamson said. “So I think those are the most important things. My high jump technique was a bit shaky before coming here. It’s still a work in progress, but I have improved a lot technically.”

With the national title marked off her to-do list, Williamson quickly turned her attention to an even greater honor: to represent her country in the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She missed the Olympic standard mark of 6-4 (1.93 meters) in Oregon, but she will shoot for it again at her country’s Olympic trials.

“I’ll be competing at home with a home crowd and it’s always nice competing in Jamaica,” she said. “So hopefully that will be enough of a booster for me to get the qualifying mark, which I’ve been close to, and, according to coach, I should have had already because of how I’m looking, but it’s always the small details that are a bother. Hopefully going home and competing in front of my home crowd I’ll be able to get it.”

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