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East's Hollingsworth looks to defend high jump title

Won state title as a sophomore

Brookfield East High School girls track team member Khadiya Hollingsworth practices the high jump at Brookfield East High School on April 16.

Brookfield East High School girls track team member Khadiya Hollingsworth practices the high jump at Brookfield East High School on April 16. Photo By Peter Zuzga

April 21, 2014

Khadiyah Hollingsworth realizes these moments will one day reach a conclusion.

But Hollingsworth, a junior at Brookfield East who last season won the Division 1 high jump competition, makes every moment count while being a primary focus for opponents, coaches, recruiters and fans alike.

As a sophomore, Hollingsworth won every meet she competed in and jumped a season-best 5 feet, 7 inches at the state meet in La Crosse.

Being a reigning state champ with two years of high school competition to go, Hollingsworth doesn't worry much over things she can't control and focuses solely on her jumps.

"I'm not too worried about competition," Hollingsworth said. "When I see someone who jumps well and way over the bar, I'm happy for them. I'm a little worried, like, 'Are they going to beat me?' Then I'm like, 'Why am I psyching myself out?' Because when I psych myself out, I won't jump."

In a world of cutthroat competition, Hollingsworth has a refreshing perspective on the opposition.

"You can't control what other people are doing," she said. "You can only wish them the best and hope they do well."

In fact, the junior makes it a point to cheer on opponents and even offer up a few pointers, including at a recent meet in Whitewater.

Helping out

"I was helping girls and giving them techniques," Hollingsworth said. "They were getting ready to run, I was like, 'You should stride this, sprint this, stride this.' I was helping them out, telling them when they should kick it in. I want people to do well. I want them to do the best that they can."

Lisa Foss, East's head coach, enjoys the unique frame of mind Hollingsworth showcases during competitions.

"She doesn't have the approach, necessarily, to any event like most people would," Foss said. "She, while most people are sitting before their event and freaking out and getting nervous, she's still very focused on what she has to do.

"But she's also still much more into the youthfulness spirit of things — loves to jump and have fun — whereas most people, to the point, at her age are like freaking out. They realize the seriousness and all of the people watching and all of that. But she thrives on it, and it's just like a little kid having fun."

That fun-loving attitude has helped Hollingsworth become closer to her fellow jumpers.

"We just have a really good support team," senior Natalie Mussato said. "When you're a sprinter, there's 60 of you, so it's hard to get really close. But with our jumpers, we have (Hollingsworth and I) and one or two others in the varsity meets together. So we've gotten really close with waiting all the time and jumping together. We really push each other in practice, and it's just really nice having her here. Everyone looks up to her."

After giving pointers to competitors, Hollingsworth spends time coaching and mentoring younger jumpers at St. Dominic in Brookfield.

"We have some serious jumpers and some not serious jumpers," Hollingsworth said. "I work with all of them, and if they want to just have fun then I let them do it. Otherwise, I really help coach the girls."

The outside focus that wasn't present last season and increased attention has heightened after a historic sophomore season.

More pressure

The outside focus that wasn't present last season and increased attention has heightened after a historic sophomore season.

"It's a little bit more pressure," said Hollingsworth, who tied the school high jump record last season. "Since the first day of school, I started doing offseason training, and I've been doing it all year. Coming in to track season there wasn't so much pressure that I had to catch up. I was prepared. It's not like a lot of pressure, but there is some pressure there at meets because you want the points for the team so that we can win."

The added spotlight is just another reason to become that much better, and that means more time in the weight room.

"When it comes to training, I'm trying hard on making sure I can focus and push myself," said Hollingsworth, who trains all offseason. "I say I train pretty hard."

If Hollingsworth has her way, the constant training and the rigorous weight lifting months before and after competition will perhaps bring back familiar feelings of joy and exuberance.

Mussato looked back on Hollingsworth's state title.

"I didn't go to state last year (as a competitor), but I watched everything, and it was so cool seeing her after (the state meet) and being so happy," Mussato said. "I knew she could do it all season. She rarely had competition wherever our meets were."

Realistic goal

For the next two seasons, Hollingsworth, who is trying to clear 5-8 this season, believes jumping 5-10 is a realistic goal. At a meet, a college coach, after watching Hollingsworth nearly clear a 5-8 jump, remarked that she is jumping at a 5-10 height, but needed to make a few adjustments to reach that goal.

"It was eye-opening that someone from a college perspective would say that," Hollingsworth said.

But with two years remaining, the state record of 6-0 is always in the back of the state champ's mind.

For a public speaking course, Hollingsworth used high jumping as a metaphor for life.

"High jump was like life and the bar was like an obstacle," Hollingsworth said. "It starts low and you jump over. I'm not saying don't be happy at that height, but don't be content to stay there. Keep striving to do better, raise the bar and drive to be higher and higher."

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