By Greg Klein Staff writer
---- — The good news for Cooperstown’s track team is bad news for high jumpers in the rest of the state: Lucy Ford is back.
Ford, a junior, has been out since injuring her left ankle in the Don Howard Invitational on May 4. She returned in good form May 23, winning the Section Three Class C meet at Sauquoit Valley. After winning with a jump at 5-feet, Ford stopped jumping to rest her ankle. She also placed third in the shot put.
“It was torture,” she said of sitting and watching while she recovered from a pulled deltoid muscle. “I went to the (Center State Conference) championships and I hated sitting in the press box.
“I was putting up ribbons (for the winners), and I guess I would say it was bitter sweet,” she continued. “The girl that won jumped a 4-6. Usually, I don’t even start jumping until 4-6.”
Cooperstown girls’ track coach, Connie Herzig, said that Ford’s attitude is part of what makes her so successful.
“Lucy’s main gift is her strength of personality,” Herzig said. “Her calm demeanor and her refusal to get down on herself when things are not going her way have been the determining factors in her continuing success.”
“Many girls are so hard on themselves emotionally that they cannot make progress. They get in their own way and worry over every little thing,” she continued. “Lucy has this lovely way of viewing the world and herself in a positive way and she sees the bigger picture. She is confident without being cocky and is able to keep a cool head at all times. She is a dream to coach. She is also very much a team player.”
Ford’s personal best this season is 5-foot-4, a good enough height to have won the state C-D title last year. In that meet, she finished fifth in class and 11th overall in the state. But she said her height, and her rivals’ heights as well, were hampered by bad weather.
“It just down poured all day and I really didn’t do that well,” she said. “It was cold and wet and the mat was soaking. I don’t think anybody could do their best.”
Ford said she hopes to beat her fifth place finish, but she admits she also has her eye on a state title.
“I think I started thinking about it during basketball season,” she said. “I would be looking up at the banners in the gym and think ‘that would be a pretty good spot there for my name.’”
Just a few weeks ago, however, she was thinking that her opportunity had passed.
“My mom was talking to the doctor on the phone, and she said that typically that kind of injury means that my season would be over. This was before they examined me and it turned out to be not as serious as they thought.”
“I just felt horrible,” she added. “It is my recruiting year, and my junior year. I thought if I can’t do this, I don’t know what I will do.”
Instead, Ford will jump in the Section Three State Qualifier today at Cicero-North Syracuse and most likely in the state meet next weekend in Middletown. And the recruiters are already aware of her, according to Herzig.
“She is being recruited heavily by several colleges,” she said.
Ford also plays basketball and is a swimmer and diver. At 6-foot-1, her height is a factor in her success. She said it is why her former coach Brenda Jaeger pushed her into jumping in the first place.
“She pushed me to jump in the high jump, because usually it is tall people who do well in it,” Ford said. “I enjoy it a lot. It is just an amazing feeling to jump and then to clear the bar and land. It is a thrill.”
Herzig said that a lot of Ford’s success came from her work with Jaeger and more recently from working with Mike Pascuzzo, a jumping specialist, in the off-season.
“She came to me as a freshman already jumping extremely well, 5-foot and (she) made 5-foot-2 quickly,” Herzig said. “She had mastered the basic technique already and just needed to focus on the finer points to find the improvements we have enjoyed this season. She has become much stronger and has refined her technique. The outside coaching we have both had has helped us to become a better team and to learn what to do to improve.”
Now with her ankle healed and a chance at the state title ahead of her, Ford is clearly happy.
“It is good to be back and jumping,” she said.