Olympic Track and Field Trials: Day 5

By Jess Zutz


When she walked into the media tent, she wasn’t wearing her right shoe.  Her orange ankle sock was scrunched down to only cover the ball of her foot, leaving her heel bare.  The first question she was asked was “How did today go?” and with a wide grin on her face, she answered “I didn’t jump well.  I’m hurt.”  A heel bruise plagued her from the minute she took off from her first jump in the finals of the triple jump competition at the Olympic Trials, which consequently was only her fifth time participating in the triple jump.  But none of these extraordinary circumstances seemed to bother or rattle her.  She was just here to have fun.


She is Lauryn Newson, the University of Oregon senior jumper phenom.


Yet another remarkable Oregon track story has developed over the course of the past few days at Trials.  Lauryn didn’t begin running track until after high school when she was approached to do the long jump at a junior college.  Her natural speed and success at that level allowed her to transfer to the University of Oregon where she has run four seasons of sprints outdoors and participated as a long jumper.  This year, after begging her coach to let her try, she participated in the triple jump for the first time at the Oregon Twilight Relay in May.  But she didn’t just participate.  Her jumps at that meet put her as the all-time third best triple jumper at Oregon.  She now stands at number two on the all-time list after she won the PAC-12 championship a few weeks later with a jump of 43’4.25”.


More impressive than her ability to quickly pick up one of the sport’s most body-battering events is her ability to simply shrug off the pressure she carries on her shoulders.  She is the youthful embodiment of what sport is all about.  Her laid-back approach to America’s largest track stage and what Team USA head coach Amy Deem called “one of the best track meets in the world” is admirable in the sense that she doesn’t let noise stand in her way of having fun.  Before she even stood up from the wet sand pit after her first jump during the finals on Monday, a huge smile shot across her face.  And it never left.


Throughout the dozens of interviews that have been conducted this past week, many athletes have attributed their success to their sport psychologists.  In these interviews, these competitors constantly thank their psychologists for the mental strength and guidance they provide.  Lauryn, however, seems to have a slightly different version of sport psychology.  She doesn’t rely on any visualizations or meditations; there isn’t even a psychologist involved.  Lauryn’s version of sport psychology is sport itself.


In that sense, Lauryn is one of the best athletes competing at these Olympic Trials.  She has found a way to enjoy the full experience of competing for a spot on the U.S. team without relying on others.  And she chose the event not because her body or skill was necessarily best suited for it (though we have come to find out that it indeed is).  So why did she want to even start doing the triple jump?


“I like bounding a lot.  I just like to jump.  It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump.”


It’s a simple answer for a simple question.  And for Lauryn, there’s not really a need to offer any more reason behind it.  Above all, it’s a simple explanation for why we even do sport, or follow any passion we have.  Because we just like to.


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