UCF Track and Field's Gilchrist Makes Jump in Senior Season

GO KNIGHTS Jacquelyn Gilchrist earned her first medal at a Conference USA Indoor Championship in February with a third-place finish.
Jacquelyn Gilchrist earned her first medal at a Conference USA Indoor Championship in February with a third-place finish.

March 29, 2012

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When you perform in the same conference that has produced an NCAA national champion long jumper two of the last four years, and you compete alongside a teammate who is a two-time All-American, it doesn't take much to be overlooked.

So when senior Jacquelyn Gilchrist earned her first medal at a Conference USA Indoor Championship in February with a third-place finish in the long jump, she savored every second of standing on the podium.

"It was unbelievable. I had dreamed about that moment so many times," Gilchrist said. "I saw it happening. To actually be on the podium, I just kept telling myself look at God because I had been waiting on that for four years."

Gilchrist is making the most of her senior year. After earning all-conference laurels in the indoor season, she is currently the C-USA outdoor season frontrunner in the long jump and triple jump with personal-best marks of 6.17m/20-03 and 12.56m/41-02.50, respectively. She ranks sixth in the country in the long jump and 14th in the triple jump heading into the weekend.

"I think she's ready to compete with the best in our conference and that's saying a lot because we have a national champion, people who have been ranked top-four nationally and people who have jumped 21 feet," said UCF assistant coach and jumps specialist Paul Brown. "I think she has a great chance to compete with all of them."

Although she grew up a gymnast, Gilchrist walked away from the sport when she was 13 years old. She turned her penchant for the vault into a successful transition as an all-conference and high school state finalist long jumper, but not without a little adversity along the way.

"I didn't take it seriously at first," Gilchrist said. "I was in love with the hurdles."

In ninth grade, her foot caught a hurdle during a race and she threw out her right hand to brace herself as she fell. She broke three fingers that required two surgeries.

"I fell out of love with hurdles," Gilchrist said with a laugh. "After that I tried to come back but it was never the same. I would never attack it because I always had a fear of falling again.

She faced another challenge to her athletic career when her parents decided that she should transfer from Wolfson High School in her hometown of Jacksonville to the Paxon School for Advanced Studies. They felt their straight-A offspring needed a more rigorous academic curriculum.

"I was disappointed at first because the track team was pretty much non-existent at Paxon, but academics come first, so I'm glad I went," said Gilchrist, who has been appointed to the C-USA Academic Honor Roll for three years and plans to pursue a career as a physical therapist. "I really had to step it up on the track because I was pretty much working out by myself or with the boys. The other girls didn't take it as seriously."

Gilchrist said she was not significantly recruited until April of her senior year. She decided to head to UCF where she has had moderate success over the last three years but nothing like the numbers she's putting up as a senior.

"In all of my past seasons, I always lived in fear - a fear of doing something wrong. A fear of not doing better than I did the previous meet," Gilchrist said. "This year, it's just a different outlook. When I get on the runway now, it's not fear or doubt or anything. I view it as another opportunity to do something great."

She has adopted a more vocal role on the team this year, and the Knights couldn't be happier that she has hit her stride.

"She has gotten into a great groove. I'm really proud of her ability to figure it out and improve each week this season," Brown said. "She's not done by any means. She has some unfinished business."



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