Thursday afternoon, Gabby Williams will compete against 23 other women for the right to represent the United States of America in the high jump at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. While some of her competitors are professional athletes who devote every waking moment of their lives to this chance, and who have sponsors like Nike and Gatorade, it will merely be an amazing experience for the 15-year-old Williams.
That is not to say that Williams will not be competing to punch a ticket to London. Competing is all Williams knows. She has brought the Nevada girls basketball 4A state crown back to Reed High School. She has won countless medals at both high school and national track and field meets along with setting records — all by the time she is just legal to earn a driver’s permit.
This has to be the largest and most exciting achievement in the young and promising career of Williams. Can you imagine having the opportunity to represent your country at the age of 15? Most 15-year-olds are concerned with either getting braces on or taking them off. When I was 15 years old, my biggest accomplishment was deciding which marshmallows I was going to eat first in my bowl of cereal. Williams has athletic abilities beyond many of our comprehensions. Heading into her junior year of high school, the girl has a vertical that allows her to dunk a tennis ball. Most of us are pleased when we successfully dunk an Oreo into a glass of milk.
I wonder when Williams and her family first realized she had special talent. Perhaps it was on the basketball court, Williams’ first home, or maybe it was on the track. I like to imagine it was one night when a toddler Williams was sent to bed and instead of asking for help into her crib she just picked up a slight pace and jumped into it.
Williams qualified for the Olympic trials when she cleared the bar at 6 feet, 1.50 inches in the high jump. Only one woman at the collegiate level surpassed that mark this season. I couldn’t even clear the bar at that height if I were standing on top of a six-foot ladder. Heck, I couldn’t even make the cut for the Olympic trials on Wii.
If you have yet to see Williams compete, you should set aside time on your calendar to catch her next basketball game or track competition. It is rare that you get to see a world-class talent develop right in front of you.
Williams is about to be on stage with some of the top athletes in the world. She will be only the second 15-year-old in the history of the U.S. Olympic trials to compete in the high jump. The only other girl to contend at 15 was named Cindy Gilbert, who competed in the trials 40 years ago and actually made the team for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
So when Williams steps to the line on Thursday and sets off for her first jump, perhaps she will falter and have to settle for waiting until the summer of 2016 for her next shot at Olympic glory. Knowing the competitor that she is and the way she steps up to the challenge, I wouldn’t be surprised if the thousands in attendance at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field and the thousands watching at home don’t help push Williams even higher, over the bar and into Olympic history.
Now, as for those marshmallows.
Damian Tromerhauser is a Sparks Tribune sports reporter. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org