Despite being bothered by a cramp, junior Dora Gyorffy won the high jump title at the NCAA Championships Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark., jumping to a height of 1.94 meters.
Gyorffy, who was the runner-up at the NCAAs last year, outdid the next highest jumper, Carrie Long of Purdue, who jumped 1.87 meters.
"I was very happy to get the title although I have to say I was very confident going into the meet," Gyorffy said. "I was in really great shape."
Just two weeks ago Gyorffy, who was Harvard's only representative at the NCAAs, tied the NCAA high jump record at the Heptagonal Championships, with a jump of 1.97 meters. At that meet, a torn shoe kept Gyorffy from attempting all of her rounds at the next highest height, and so she was stopped prematurely.
This weekend Gyorffy was looking to do what she couldn't do at Heps and break the NCAA record. However, with another stroke of bad luck, she got a cramp in her left calf as she made her first attempt at 1.90 meters. While she was disappointed not to be able to break the record, she said she was happy that she did as well as she did despite the cramp.
"I can still hardly believe that I made 1.94 meters with it," Gyorffy said. "I was hoping I could improve my PR [personal record] from Heps when I equaled the collegiate record," Gyorffy said. "I feel without the cramp I could have gotten [the record], but now it will keep me motivated for the outdoor season and make me work even harder."
The past few weeks have seen Gyorffy break through to an even higher level than her already excellent standing in the collegiate high jump world.
"She is very confident in her own abilities," said Harvard Assistant Coach Paul Turner. "She has moved to a whole new level, and she finally realizes that."
Going into the meet, Gyorffy thought Erin Aldrich of Purdue would be her biggest competition, and so when Aldrich went out at 1.84 meters, Gyorffy was relieved. She still had to get by Long, however, and Gyorffy worried when she got the cramp.
"The only stressful moment was when I got the cramp and there was one girl still jumping," Gyorffy said. "I am glad the cramp was not too bad, and I could still make two more heights."
Gyorffy, who is currently No. 3 in the world in the indoor high jump, comes to Harvard from Budapest, Hungary, and with her performance this weekend has secured a spot on the Hungarian Olympic team. This summer she will practice in Europe in preparation for the Olympics.
"I will be focusing on Sydney," Gyorffy said. "I am very excited."
In the mean time, she will start training for Harvard's outdoor season after a week off. Even though the competition will be more intense outdoors, she feels she will be able to jump even higher than her record 1.97 meters outdoors this spring. She is currently planning only to compete in the triple jump for the first few meets and to start high jumping around the end of April.
"I will have a very long season with the Olympics in September so I want to train through the spring mostly," Gyorffy said.
All of Gyorffy's success seems well-deserved, and Harvard is lucky to have this likely future Olympian here as a student. By all accounts, she is as excellent a person as she is an athlete.
"It is a lot of fun to coach her," Turner said. "She is very determined and works very hard--sometimes, in fact, we have to rein her in because she works too hard. She is a wonderful person, and it is great to get to work with her on a daily basis."
While she has a busy few months ahead of her, maybe Gyorffy will be able to relish her NCAA victory and memories of the weekend for the next few days.
"[The NCAA championships] were really fun," Gyorffy said of the past weekend. "Seeing amazing performances from the best collegiate athletes was great. Some of those performances were really world class."
After her performance Saturday, she can include her performance in that category.